Florida Save Our Homes, Amendment 1 (January 2008)

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Florida Amendment One, also known as the "Portability of Save Our Homes", was a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment. The measure passed with 64.4% in favor and 35.6% opposed in a special election January 29, 2008—timed to coincide with Florida's presidential primary.[1]

Due to a 2006 change in Florida's initiative laws, the measure needed 60% approval in order to pass.

Floridians passed the original Save Our Homes Amendment in 1992, which took effect in 1995.[2] That measure put an annual cap of 3 percent on increases in assessed home values for property taxes.[3] However, a loophole in the Save Our Homes Amendment lost the property tax cap for Floridians who move to a new home. This new measure allows Floridians to take their property tax cap with them when they move.

The amendment is retroactively effective to January 1, 2008.[4]

Election results

Question 1
ResultVotesPercentage
Approveda Yes 2,667,543 64.1%
No1,495,27035.9%

Official results via: Florida Department of State Division of Elections

Details of the Amendment

Florida Amendment One amends the current Save Our Homes property tax cap by allowing the difference between market value assessments to be transfered to new homesteads. The objective of the amendment, according to its supporters, is to promote more movement in the housing market.

Currently, snowbirds and first time home buyers face staggering tax liabilities because they are not protected by the Save Our Homes amendment. Business owners, whose taxable property often outweighs their voting power, are also given little tax relief under the status quo.[5]

The amendment will also:

  • Double the amount of each home's value exempt from property tax, from $25,000 to $50,000, on all but the least expensive homes
  • Provide a $25,000 exemption on tangible personal property (TPP)
  • Create a 10% annual cap on non-homesteaded property


Background

The supporters of Florida Amendment One originally sought to place it on the Florida ballot through the initiative and referendum process. They had collected about 15,000 signatures to qualify the measure for the ballot, when the Florida state legislature made their efforts irrelevant by voting to place the proposed amendment on the ballot through the legislative referral process.


Supporters

Save Our Homes Portability, Inc. is the group sponsoring Florida Amendment One.

Florida Governor Charlie Crist believes that this amendment will stop residents from the "locked-in" effect which prevents homeowners or empty nesters from moving into smaller homes as their needs or lifestyles change.[6]

Florida State House Speaker Marco Rubio also backs the measure, saying that the state legislature has not done enough to cut down on property taxes after Gov. Crist promised during the most recent election campaign that property taxes would "drop like a rock."[7],[8] He is currently plugging the Florida Cut Property Taxes Now (2008) initiative saying it will bring real relief to Florida.


Opposition

Teachers and unions have generally opposed the measure. The League of Women Voters and Florida Tax Watch opposed the first amendment for Save Our Homes on the grounds that it creates inequities in how properties were taxed.[9] Florida Tax Watch also believes that the measure is "probably unconstitutional" and will certainly meet litigation on those grounds if the voters approve it.[10]


Ballot title called confusing

While the proposed amendment itself comes to 15 pages of text, a 498-word summary or ballot title is what voters will see when they go to the polls on January 28. Both proponents and opponents are concerned that voters will be unsure about what they are voting on. Dominic Calabro of Florida Tax Watch said:

Since we only vote on the ballot title and summary, it's absolutely essential that it is clear, in layman's language, so you have a comfort level and really understand it because you're changing your basic rights and freedoms under the constitution. We don't think it's very clear.[11]


Pre-emptive lawsuit filed against Florida Amendment One

Three new Florida residents filed a class action lawsuit in Leon County on November 21, 2007 asking a judge to invalidate both the original Florida Save Our Homes property tax cap, and also to invalidate 2008's Florida Amendment One—if it passes—on the grounds that the new amendment worsens the inequities built into the original property tax cap.[12] [13]

Walter Hellerstein, a professor from the University of Georgia, has argued that the portability provision of the proposed amendment discriminates against those who do not currently own homes in Florida—whether because they have yet to own a home or because they currently live outside the state. The tax advantages only belong to those who sell a house in Florida.

Hellerstein believes that the fact that Amendment One provides benefits to current Florida homeowners, and no one else, could be interpreted by the U.S. Supreme Court to be an unconstitutional interference with interstate commerce and the right of people to travel between states.[14]

Florida Governor Charlie Crist disagrees with the claims in the class action lawsuit and also with Hellerstein's legal analysis. Crist has remarked, "We're changing the constitution. How can it be more constitutional?"[15]


Florida newspapers give their editorial opinions

The Miami Herald urges a "no" vote, saying that while property tax relief matters, this amendment leaves Florida's "creaky, inefficient and archaic tax system" in place.[16]

The Fernando Beach News Leader says that while the current property tax system has flaws, the amendment is better than nothing and urges a "yes" vote.[17]

The local NBC news took a different take on the recommendation to point out that if it was a simple majority the legislators wouldn't be sweating about their initiative, but instead because of their own recommendation to increase it to a super majority their initiative is likely not to pass.[18]


See also


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