A closer look at Florida Constitutional Amendment 5

Amendment 5
Excerpt from 1885 Florida Constitution. Photo edited and used with permission. Credit: State Archives of Florida.

About this Florida Phoenix series: Florida voters could face a whopping twelve different proposed amendments to the state Constitution on Nov. 6 – one of the longest lists ever. The amendments cover a wild ride of subjects, including complex changes to tax policy, banning offshore oil drilling and greyhound racing, expanding gambling, automatically restoring voting rights for ex-felons, setting new rules on lobbying, and even whether Florida should ban vaping in public places.

Even more challenging is that some of the amendments “bundle” several different ideas into one, meaning voters might be forced to vote for a thing they don’t like in order to approve something they want, or vice versa. (Plus, three of the amendments are mired in a legal challenge that’s before the Florida Supreme Court.)

It’s confusing, and the Phoenix is going to try in the coming days to briefly lay out all these amendments for you, explain what they will do, and tell you who supports it and who opposes it.

Amendment Five: Supermajority Vote Required to Impose, Authorize, or Raise State Taxes or Fees

BALLOT SUMMARY: “Prohibits the legislature from imposing, authorizing, or raising a state tax or fee except through legislation approved by a two-thirds vote of each house of the legislature in a bill containing no other subject. This proposal does not authorize a state tax or fee otherwise prohibited by the Constitution and does not apply to fees or taxes imposed or authorized to be imposed by a county,municipality, school board, or special district.”

What it’s about:

Making it harder for the Legislature to raise taxes or fees.

The Florida GOP-led Legislature doesn’t like to raise taxes, but it has raised some fees in recent years. This measure would make it more onerous to do either.

Currently, the Legislature needs a simple majority to pass any new taxes or fees or to increase existing ones. If Amendment 5 passes, it would require a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate to pass a new tax or fee – meaning it might be harder to fund a variety of government services and infrastructure.

Nationally, some 15 states require such a “supermajority” for at least some tax increases.

Critics contend the amendment is a short-sighted attempt to limit future legislatures from raising revenues, and note that it doesn’t impose limits when legislators are giving out tax breaks.

Who’s for it?

Florida TaxWatch, the Florida Chamber of Commerce, and the majority of the Florida House & Senate, who voted to put the measure on the ballot earlier this year. That includes Democrats such as incoming House Minority Leader Kionne McGhee.

Who’s against it?

The League of Women Voters of Florida, the Florida Policy Institute, Progress Florida, The Florida Education Association, and Democratic Florida Attorney General candidate Sean Shaw.

Other key points:

The last time the Legislature voted to raise taxes was nearly a decade ago.

Lawmakers in 2009 voted to increase the tax on tobacco products by $1 and raised driver’s license fees. Both were enacted in response to the 2008 recession.

Amendment 5 needs 60 percent approval to pass.

 

Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry has spent the past 18 years covering news and politics in the Sunshine State, most recently with FloridaPolitics.com. He worked for five years as the political editor of Creative Loafing in Tampa, and before that he was the assistant news director at WMNF radio, where he served as creator/anchor/producer of the hour-long WMNF Evening News. A San Francisco native, Mitch began his career at KPFA Radio in Berkeley in the 1990's.

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