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Amendment supporters fear voter fatigue

Anticipated “voter fatigue” is already a concern of backers of a proposed constitutional amendment that would extend a property-tax cap, particularly because approval of the measure will require support from 60 percent of voters.

When they cast ballots in November, Floridians will decide the fate of the 13 proposed constitutional amendments, including the measure, known as Amendment 2, that would extend the tax cap on non-homesteaded properties.

The long list of ballot proposals worries supporters of Amendment 2, though the measure does not have announced opposition.

“We are in a non-presidential election cycle, so there’s going to be some voter fatigue and endurance issues, and we want to make sure when they get to Amendment 2 they’re going to vote ‘yes,’ ” Patrick Slevin, a spokesman for the Florida State Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, said this week.

The amendment, which also has backing from groups such as Florida Realtors, would extend and make permanent a 10 percent cap on annual increases in assessed values of non-homesteaded properties. Unless an extension is approved in November, the cap otherwise will expire at the end of the year.

Florida TaxWatch said Tuesday that eliminating the cap would raise property taxes by more than $700 million on non-homesteaded properties like businesses, apartments and second homes. Lawmakers used a similar figure when they voted last year to put the measure on the 2018 ballot.

The Legislature also put two other proposals on the November ballot that could limit taxes. One measure, which will appear as Amendment 1, would expand the homestead property-tax exemption. The other, which will appear as Amendment 5, would require two-thirds votes by future legislators to raise taxes.

The ballot also will include two measures that are a result of petition drives. One of the measures, Amendment 3, would allow voters to decide on future expansions of gambling. Another measure, Amendment 4, would restore voting rights for felons who have served their sentences.

The Constitution Revision Commission added eight other amendments, with six of the measures featuring two or more topics.

Amendment 6 focuses on victims’ rights. Amendment 7 includes death benefits for first responders. Amendment 8 involves term limits for school-board members and other educational changes. Amendment 9 combines a proposed ban on offshore oil drilling with a proposed ban on vaping in the workplace. Amendment 10 deals with issues including the start date of legislative sessions in even-numbered years. Amendment 11 involves issues related to property rights and high-speed rail. Amendment 12 would impose a six-year lobbying ban on former state elected officials. And Amendment 13 would ban greyhound racing.

Now imagine reading the longer, more defined version of each of those while in the voting booth.

Kate MacFall, the Humane Society’s Florida state director, believes the greyhound-racing ban, which she supports, can avoid problems with voter fatigue.

“We think Amendment 13 is going to stand out and bring a lot of voter support,” MacFall said.

However, she understands other issues “about tax policy that could be more confusing” might become buried in the muddle.

Dominic Calabro, president and CEO of Florida TaxWatch, said he “generally” doesn’t agree with “log rolling,” putting multiple topics into single amendments, but he understands the need to condense the ballot.

Along with the length of the ballot, a concern for backers of Amendment 2 is that voters commonly will vote “no” if they don’t want things to change. But a “no” vote on Amendment 2 would do away with the tax cap that property owners already enjoy.

The News Service of Florida provides journalists, lobbyists, government officials and other civic leaders with comprehensive, objective information about the activities of state government year-round.

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