Update: Floridians' Opinion About Amendment 4

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Publication Date: 
Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Amendment 4, a proposed change to the Florida Constitution entitled “PROPERTY TAX LIMITATIONS; PROPERTY VALUE DECLINE; REDUCTION FOR NONHOMESTEAD ASSESSMENT INCREASES; DELAY OF SCHEDULED REPEAL” will appear on the ballot for the 2012 general election.  The proposed amendment requires a 60% majority to pass.  The UF Survey Research Center asked a series of 5 questions in June 2011, July2011, March 2012, and again September 2012 on its pre-existing monthly survey of Floridians to assess the public’s overall knowledge of the amendment, how they feel about different proposed changes, and which way they plan on voting come election time.

The vast majority of eligible voters claim to know “nothing” about the Amendment.

The original article shows the likely voting trends in June, July and March. Figure 1 shows the survey results for the question “How much do you know about Amendment 4?”, including the recent September data, weighted to adjust for county and age distributions in order to reflect the 2010 Census results.  While it appears that a slightly greater proportion of eligible voters know “some” about Amendment 4 now than they did in March, there has been nearly no change in the proportion of people that are most informed about the Amendment since the questions first ran in June, 2011.  The vast majority of eligible voters claim to know “nothing” about the Amendment.

FIGURE 1: “How much do you know about Amendment 4?”

In order for Amendment 4 to pass, 60% of the ballots cast need to be in favor of the amendment.  It is important to note that this is 60% of people who vote (either Yes or No).  Those who skip voting on the amendment are not counted.

Figure 2 shows the percent of respondents who reported how they would vote if the election was on the day of the survey.  As clearly shown, as of September 30th, the amendment does not have the requisite 60% to pass.  However, 11% of voters were unsure of how they would vote, which could result in the amendment’s approval if enough wind up voting to pass it.

FIGURE 2: “If the election were held today, would you vote for or against Amendment 4?”

In the time between the previous article was published and now, the text of the proposed amendment has been released:

PROPERTY TAX LIMITATIONS; PROPERTY VALUE DECLINE; REDUCTION FOR NONHOMESTEAD ASSESSMENT INCREASES; DELAY OF SCHEDULED REPEAL.—(1) This would amend Florida Constitution Article VII, Section 4 (Taxation; assessments) and Section 6 (Homestead exemptions). It also would amend Article XII, Section 27, and add Sections 32 and 33, relating to the Schedule for the amendments. (2) In certain circumstances, the law requires the assessed value of homestead and specified nonhomestead property to increase when the just value of the property decreases. Therefore, this amendment provides that the Legislature may, by general law, provide that the assessment of homestead and specified nonhomestead property may not increase if the just value of that property is less than the just value of the property on the preceding January 1, subject to any adjustment in the assessed value due to changes, additions, reductions, or improvements to such property which are assessed as provided for by general law. This amendment takes effect upon approval by the voters. If approved at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, it shall operate retroactively to January 1, 2012, or, if approved at the 2012 general election, shall take effect January 1, 2013. (3) This amendment reduces from 10 percent to 5 percent the limitation on annual changes in assessments of nonhomestead real property. This amendment takes effect upon approval of the voters. If approved at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, it shall operate retroactively to January 1, 2012, or, if approved at the 2012 general election, takes effect January 1, 2013. (4) This amendment also authorizes general law to provide, subject to conditions specified in such law, an additional homestead exemption to every person who establishes the right to receive the homestead exemption provided in the Florida Constitution within 1 year after purchasing the homestead property and who has not owned property in the previous 3 calendar years to which the Florida homestead exemption applied. The additional homestead exemption shall apply to all levies except school district levies. The additional exemption is an amount equal to 50 percent of the homestead property's just value on January 1 of the year the homestead is established. The additional homestead exemption may not exceed an amount equal to the median just value of all homestead property within the county where the property at issue is located for the calendar year immediately preceding January 1 of the year the homestead is established. The additional exemption shall apply for the shorter of 5 years or the year of sale of the property. The amount of the additional exemption shall be reduced in each subsequent year by an amount equal to 20 percent of the amount of the additional exemption received in the year the homestead was established or by an amount equal to the difference between the just value of the property and the assessed value of the property determined under Article VII, Section 4(d), whichever is greater. Not more than one such exemption shall be allowed per homestead property at one time. The additional exemption applies to property purchased on or after January 1, 2011, if approved by the voters at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, or to property purchased on or after January 1, 2012, if approved by the voters at the 2012 general election. The additional exemption is not available in the sixth and subsequent years after it is first received. The amendment shall take effect upon approval by the voters. If approved at a special election held on the date of the 2012 presidential preference primary, it shall operate retroactively to January 1, 2012, or, if approved at the 2012 general election, takes effect January 1, 2013. (5) This amendment also delays until 2023, the repeal, currently scheduled to take effect in 2019, of constitutional amendments adopted in 2008 which limit annual assessment increases for specified nonhomestead real property. This amendment delays until 2022 the submission of an amendment proposing the abrogation of such repeal to the voters.

This text is very lengthy, which raises the question whether voters who know “nothing” about Amendment 4 will take the time to read the entire passage, whether they will vote based on the title of the amendment (or some other reason), or if they will even vote at all.  It is also important to note that this is the fourth of twelve proposed amendments, which makes it seem unlikely that those who are not knowledgeable of Amendment 4 in addition to other amendments, which we do not have data on, will take the time to read the details of all of the amendments.

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