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Senate panel OKs veteran homestead exemption amendment

Wednesday’s hearing was the first for the joint resolution.

A proposed constitutional amendment to extend a homestead property tax discount for disabled veterans to a surviving spouse was approved by the Senate Military and Veterans Affairs and Space Committee Wednesday.

The measure (SJR 886) was put forward by Sen. Jeff Brandes. He’s a St. Petersburg Republican.

Wednesday’s hearing was the first for the joint resolution, which will also be heard by the Finance and Tax Committee and the Appropriations Committee.

While some of the homestead exemptions currently provided to veterans already carry over to a spouse upon death, the committee’s Senior Attorney Cindy Brown said that’s not the case for the exemption for disabled veterans.

“We currently provide five exemptions or tax discounts on homestead property to veterans,” Brown said. “Of the five that we provide, and they’re very specific in what’s required, the only one that does not currently carry over to the surviving spouse is the one where the veteran is disabled due to it being combat-related.”

The exemption would remain in effect should the surviving spouse decide to get a new home, provided the exemption does not exceed the previous amount. But if the spouse remarries, the exemption would terminate.

Sen. Doug Broxson asked Brandes whether he had earned approval yet for the expanded exemption from the Florida Tax Collectors Association. Brandes said he hadn’t yet confirmed that with the group.

“We’re talking about, really a de minimis amount of money,” Brandes argued. “It’s probably between a million to five million dollars total across the state that would be impacted by this.”

Broxson, who said he supports the amendment and voted for its passage Wednesday, still urged Brandes to connect with local officials going forward, noting tax exemptions approved at the state level actually affect the bottom line of local governments.

“We need to remember that this is really not our money,” Broxson cautioned.

“We’re giving away money of the taxpayers in each of the 67 counties and it’s always good to have them partner with us on making these decisions.”

Brandes is aiming for the measure to appear on the 2020 ballot, should it earn approval from the Legislature. If then passed by voters, it would go into effect Jan. 1, 2021.

Written By

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to ryan.t.nicol@gmail.com.

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