2020 Election – Florida Constitutional Amendments

This fall, Floridians will see more than just their choices for President on the ballot. In addition to the various state races and local initiatives, voters will be faced with six proposals seeking to amend the Florida Constitution.

There are two ways in which these amendments are placed on the ballot. The first is by citizen petition, while the second requires a three-fifths vote of the Legislature. Once on the ballot, an amendment must be approved by 60% of voters to be enacted. Below is a breakdown of each amendment on the 2020 General Election ballot.

Amendment 1

Article VI of Florida’s Constitution states: “Every citizen of the United States who is at least eighteen years of age and who is a permanent resident of the state, if registered as provided by law, shall be an elector of the county where registered.” Amendment 1 would change the wording from “Every” to “Only a.”

Supporters of this measure argue it’s a necessary change to prevent Florida cities and counties from allowing non-citizens of the U.S. to vote in elections. Opponents disagree, stating that this proposal will have no legal impact to voting in Florida because the Constitution already prohibits non-citizens from voting.

Amendment 2

Florida’s current minimum wage is $8.56 an hour. This proposal would raise Florida’s minimum wage to $15 by 2026. It would increase the minimum wage to $10 an hour beginning September 2021 and bump it up by $1 each year until it hits $15 in September 2026. Wages for tipped employees, such as restaurant servers, would rise from $5.54 per hour to $11.98 per hour. From 2027 onward, the state minimum wage would be adjusted annually for inflation.

Proponents of this amendment believe that the measure will finally provide workers with a “living wage” and expanded purchasing power, improving the lives of its residents while also growing the state’s economy. However, with Florida’s economy already crippled by the effects of COVID-19, opponents assert that mandating this steep increase in the state’s minimum wage would further hurt businesses, drive up the cost of goods and services and result in layoffs.

Amendment 3

Since 1913, Florida has been a closed primary state, meaning that only voters registered as affiliated with one of the two major parties can vote in that party’s primary — only Democrats can vote in Democratic primaries and only Republicans can vote in Republican primaries. This amendment would open Florida’s closed primary elections for state legislative, gubernatorial, and Cabinet races. Amendment 3 would create a top-two open primary system that would list all qualified candidates on the primary ballot and allow all registered Florida voters, including those without party affiliation, to choose. The top two candidates, regardless of party affiliation, would move to the general election. The amendment would take effect on January 1, 2024, if approved.

Supporters of this proposal argue that the amendment would encourage greater voter participation by opening up closed primaries to almost 4 million voters who are not affiliated with one of the two major political parties and result in more centrist candidates. Those who oppose assert that the amendment would weaken the representation of African Americans and other minority groups in the state.

Amendment 4

This amendment would require constitutional amendments to be approved by voters twice — in two consecutive general elections, each time garnering 60% of the vote. Currently, amendments must be approved only once with 60% of the vote. If passed, the change would take effect on January 5, 2021.

Those in support of this amendment believe it is currently too easy to modify the state constitution by ballot initiative. Opponents say that requiring a second statewide vote to amend the constitution is unnecessary and would significantly and unreasonably increase the cost of citizen petition initiatives.

Amendment 5

This proposal would give Florida homeowners more time to preserve property tax benefits. In 1992, Florida voters approved the “Save Our Homes” amendment which limits the amount a home’s assessed value can be increased each year to 3%. That provision was later amended to allow homeowners two years to transfer that accrued benefit to a new home. Amendment 5 would increase the time period to three years. If an owner does not have a homestead benefit for the previous three years, they lose their accrued “Save Our Homes” benefit.  The change would take effect on January 1, 2021, if approved.

Proponents of this amendment deem it a consumer-friendly proposal as it allows homeowners more time to preserve accrued property tax savings. Opponents have expressed their concerns that this extension will lead to a notable reduction in property taxes that are collected, stretching local coffers even further and leaving fewer resources for essential services.

Amendment 6

Florida provides a homestead property tax discount for honorably discharged, combat-disabled veterans who are 65 or older. Currently, that discount expires upon the veteran’s death. This amendment would allow a surviving spouse who is on the title and lives in the home to continue to receive the discount until he or she remarries or is deceased. If the surviving spouse sells the property, they may transfer the discount to their new permanent residence. If passed, the change would take effect on January 1, 2021.

Those who support this amendment argue it will relieve surviving spouses of the significant financial burden brought on by increased property taxes, especially since many in this population are already living on fixed incomes. Opponents worry, however, that property tax revenues statewide will fall significantly, creating additional financial strain on local government.

For more information, please contact Chris Lyon at clyon@llw-law.com.