November 4th, 2008 8:17 AM by Frank Ferrell
Below are the 4 Proposed Florida Constitutional Amendments related to real estate. This information I gathered from Florida Trend Magazine is provided in a more descriptive format than you would find on your election ballot. I hope this helps you understand the issues better so you will be more informed at the voting booth. Happy voting!
Amendment 1: Repeal of Alien Land Law
What it does: Deletes an outdated provision of the state Constitution that authorizes the Legislature to regulate the property rights of “ineligible aliens.”
Background: In 1926, Florida voters amended the state Constitution to ban Asian immigrants from owning and inheriting property. Florida’s “alien land law” was typical of more than a dozen such state laws passed in the U.S. between 1862 and 1965. While the measure was intended to prevent Japanese farmers from leasing or owning property, it does not appear that the constitutional provision was ever enforced because it was never codified into the Florida statutes. Most states subsequently did away with such provisions, but a group of University of Cincinnati College of Law students discovered in 2001 that Florida, New Mexico and Wyoming still had anti-Asian land laws on the books. Wyoming and New Mexico repealed their alien land laws in 2001 and 2006, leaving Florida as the only state with an alien land law still on the books.
Proponents: Eighty-three state representatives and 39 state senators supported Geller’s push to delete the “bizarre” and “racist” wording from the state Constitution. Other supporters include the Organization of Chinese Americans, other minority rights advocates and immigrants rights advocates, and Florida TaxWatch.
Opponents: In a May 2007 vote, 31 members of the Florida House of Representatives opposed striking down the law. Anti-immigrant sentiment appears to have at least something to do with their thinking: Rep. Mitch Needelman (R) of Melbourne told the Miami Herald that lawmakers were giving up what could be a useful immigration-fighting tool.
Financial impact: None
Amendment 3: Hurricane and Energy Tax Break
What it does: Provides homeowners with a small property tax reduction when they make storm-hardening improvements such as adding hurricane shutters and hurricane-resistant shingles, doors and windows. It would also exempt renewable energy source devices like solar water heating systems. The property tax reduction would apply to rental apartments, second homes or vacation homes as well as homesteads.
Background: Currently, the Florida Constitution requires all property, with some exceptions, to be assessed at a fair market value for the purposes of ad valorem taxation. State Sen. Gwen Margolis (D) of Miami Beach, a member of the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, introduced the measure. Margolis, who is term-limited, is running for property appraiser in Miami-Dade County.
Proponents: Margolis, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida TaxWatch
Opponents: No organized opposition
Financial impact: Taxpayers would save an estimated $3.44 million in the first year the measure is implemented, according to estimates by the Legislature’s Office of Economic and Demographic Research. That would amount to an average savings of about $15 for each of the 225,000 homeowners who would likely qualify. Homeowners could realize additional savings, however, in the form of reduced insurance premiums and lower energy costs.
Amendment 4: Conservation Land Tax Break
What it does: This amendment would do two things: It would create a complete property tax exemption for conservation easements — land that a property owner agrees to maintain in its current state and not develop; second, it allows the Legislature to create a new classification of “conservation” land that would qualify for a tax reduction much in the same way the state provides “greenbelt” tax breaks to agricultural landowners.
Background: Spearheaded by environmentalists, this amendment is intended to create incentives for private landowners to leave their land undeveloped. Environmentalists argue that new conservation tools are needed to supplement programs like Florida Forever, which is running tight on funds.
Some worry how state lawmakers would implement the plan. House minority leader Dan Gelber cautions that the measure “could become a giveaway for mega-developers and have a great fiscal impact that shifts the tax burden to home-owners and active businesses” if the Legislature makes it too easy to temporarily classify property as “conservation” land. But environmentalists say lawmakers can build safeguards into the system to cut down on the potential for abuse. For instance, lawmakers might designate a minimum parcel size and allow tax assessors to go back 10 years to capture lost tax revenue if conservation land that receives a tax break is developed later.
Proponents: Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, the Nature Conservancy, the Florida Wildlife Federation, Audubon of Florida, Trust for Public Lands and other environmental groups, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida TaxWatch
Financial impact: No hard estimates of fiscal impact are available. Generally speaking, some small, rural counties where a significant amount of land is being conserved may be pinched if land is taken off the tax rolls. State and local governments will likely benefit from the fact that private landowners, not the state, will have to maintain property with conservation easements in its undeveloped condition. Once the state formally acquires a property, it also takes on the cost of maintaining it. Brian Yablonski, vice president of public affairs for St. Joe Co. and the commission member who pushed the measure, said at a hearing earlier this year that he believed the initiative had “the potential to save millions in taxpayer dollars, with the private land manager actually managing land for conservation.”
Amendment 6: Working Waterfront Tax Break
What it does: Provides a tax break for marinas, boat yards, commercial fishing facilities and other “working waterfront” businesses by assessing their property according to its current use, rather than by “highest and best,” or potential, use.
Background: Rapidly escalating property values and the state’s policy of taxing commercial property at its highest and best use have put a financial strain on owners of marinas, fish houses and boatyards. In Palm Beach County, some marina owners have seen their tax bills increase by nearly 400% over the past several years, based on assessors’ judgments that the best use of waterfront property was for high-rise development rather than the marina. The tax policy has been hard on the state’s commercial fishing industry, which has been struggling to survive amid increased fuel prices and increased regulation.
Proponents: Marine Industries Association of Florida, marina owners, fish house owners, boatyard owners, Florida Chamber of Commerce, Florida TaxWatch
Financial impact: Undetermined, although a staff analysis by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission noted that the tax break could result in reduced revenue for local governments, which may choose to increase millage rates to offset potential revenue shortfalls.