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Palm Beach Civic Association Holds Community Election Forum

Over 140 attended the Civic Association Election Forum on Monday, Oct. 22 to better understand the ballot questions for the Midterm Election.

All together there were 12 Constitutional Amendments explained by Todd Bonlarron, Palm Beach County Assistant Administrator, and a School Board Tax Referendum explained by Mike Burke, Palm Beach County School Board Chief Financial Officer.

See a summary of the ballot questions below.

The Citizens’ Association of Palm Beach co-sponsored the event.

Palm Beach Civic Association Holds Community Election Forum

More than 140 people attended Monday’s Election Forum, where they learned what it will mean to vote “yes” or “no” on the 12 proposed state Constitutional amendments and one countywide question on the Nov. 6 general election ballot.

The Palm Beach Civic Association held the event at The Episcopal Church of Bethesda-by-the-Sea Parish Hall. This event was underwritten by the Stanley M. Rumbough J. Legacy Society. The Citizens Association of Palm Beach was a sponsor.

Assistant County Administrator Todd Bonlarron deciphered the confusing language contained in the 12 amendments; while Palm Beach County School District Chief Financial Officer Mike Burke explained the school district referendum.

Civic Association President Ned Barnes welcomed everyone to the event, the first of the association’s 75th Anniversary season.

“We are very proud of the Civic Association of our accomplishments as an organization serving the community,” Mr. Barnes said.

Mr. Bonlarron kicked off the program with explanations of the Constitutional amendments. The amendments must be approved by at least 60 percent of the vote to pass.

“It really is complicated when you get in there and try to figure out what’s going on,” Mr. Bonlarron said. “I’m not here to tell you how to vote. I’m here to present a balanced approach.”

Here’s the breakdown.

Amendment 1: Increased Homestead and Property Tax Exemption

This proposes a tax exemption on the portion of the assessed value of a homestead property that is greater than $100,000 up to $125,000. Homesteaded properties are already exempted on the first $25,000 of assessed value and the third $25,000. If passed, you will receive an exemption on the third $25,000 of assessed value.

Non-homesteaded and commercial properties are not eligible. This applies only to homesteaded properties whose assessed value is greater than $100,000.

A vote “yes” would result in a tax cut on an additional $25,000 of your homesteaded property, but would cut county budgets by $37 million in 2020. It would mean a decrease in services, including library services and fire rescue. Municipalities will have to decide whether to increase taxes to fund those deficits or cut services.

A vote “no” would not offer the additional tax cut and will not affect your current homestead exemption.

Amendment 2: Limitations on Property Tax Assessments for Non-Homesteaded Properties

Ten years ago, the legislature put a 10 percent tax increase cap per year on non-homesteaded properties. On January 1, that cap goes away.

A vote “yes” would keep that 10 percent cap in place in perpetuity.

A vote “no” would repeal the cap and your non-homesteaded property would be reassessed and taxed on its current value.

Amendment 3: Voter Control of Gambling in Florida

Gives voters the exclusive right to authorize and approve the expansion of gambling in the state. The exceptions are para-mutual industries and gaming on tribal land.

A vote “yes” would leave it to the voters to put gambling on the ballot and approve.

A vote “no” would leave it the way it is: the legislature, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission and the voters all can put amendments controlling gambling on the ballot.

Amendment 4: Voting Restoration for Convicted Felons

A vote “yes” means convicted felons – excluding those convicted of murder or sex crimes – would automatically have their voting rights restored after completing all terms of their sentence.

A vote “no” leaves it to the discretion of the governor and the administration in office as to the timetable and whether their rights will be restored.

Amendment 5: Super-majority Vote to Impose, Authorize or Raise Taxes or Fees

A vote “yes” would mean it would be more difficult for the legislature to raise taxes. It would require a two-thirds majority of each house of the legislature and would have to be contained in a standalone bill.

A vote “no” means they would keep the majority vote as it stands now.

(The last six amendments come from the Constitution Revision Commission. The commission chose to group different proposals together within some of the amendments. Voters must accept or reject the items together as a whole.)

Amendment 6: Rights of crime victims; judges. (Three parts)

A vote “yes” puts specific rights of crime victims, known as “Marsy’s Law,” into the constitution; increases judges mandatory retirement age from 70 to 75; requires state court judges to independently interpret statutes in lawsuits rather than defer to a government agency’s interpretation.

Amendment 7: (Three parts)

A vote “yes” requires state and local governments to provide death and education benefits to spouses and children of first responders and military personnel killed in the line of duty; requires a supermajority of trustees and of the board of governors to increase college fees; puts the state college system of governance into the constitution.

(Amendment 8 has been removed from the ballot by the state Supreme Court after a lawsuit from the League of Women Voters challenged the language as being misleading.)

Amendment 9: (Two parts) Prevents off-shore oil and gas drilling; Prohibits vaping in enclosed indoor workplaces

A vote “yes” would ban offshore oil and gas drilling in state waters – three miles off the Atlantic and nine miles off the Gulf of Mexico and it would ban vaping in enclosed indoor workplaces.

The oil and gas industry oppose this amendment; while environmental groups favor it.

Amendment 10: State and Local Structure and Operation (Four parts)

A vote “yes” requires the legislature to provide for a state Department of Veterans Affairs; creates a state Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism; requires the legislature to convene regular session on the second Tuesday of January of even-numbered years; prohibits counties from abolishing the elected offices – or change the duties – for the sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, and clerk of the circuit court, and requires elections for those offices.

Amendment 11: Property Rights; Removal of Obsolete Provision; Criminal Statutes. (Three parts)

A vote “yes” would repeal the constitutional provision prohibiting foreign-born non-citizens from owning, inheriting, disposing and possessing property; removes obsolete language in the Constitution stating that a high-speed rail be developed in Florida; and allows the judiciary to apply new provisions of changes in criminal law to individuals who were convicted under a previous sentencing guideline.

Amendment 12: Lobbying and Abuse of Office by Public Officers

A vote “yes” puts stringent rules for lobbying for compensation by current government officials. It prohibits current officials from lobbying other governments, and receiving compensation for it, while in office. It also prohibits lobbying the same government body where the official served until six years after leaving office.

Amendment 13: A vote “yes” ends dog racing in the state by Jan. 1, 2021. Other gaming activities are not affected

Animal rights group are supporting this. The other side is that the Palm Beach Kennel Club provides hundreds of jobs to the county.

Countywide Question: School Board Referendum

Don Singer, co-chairman of the Citizen’s Association of Palm Beach, introduced Mike Burke, chief financial officer (CFO) of the School District of Palm Beach County.

“This is of critical importance to our schools in Palm Beach County,” Mr. Burke said. “Our question is at the bottom of a very long ballot.”

Mr. Burke explained the school district’s need for the added revenue.

The legislature’s tax cuts have eliminated $180 million from the school operating budget this year, he said.

In 2010 and in 2014, voters approved a tax increase 25 cents for every $1,000 of assessed value on their property. That paid for 650 teachers for arts and career programs and will expire this year.

This year’s school district referendum asks that voters approve an increase to $1 for every $1,000 of assessed value beginning on July 1, 2019 and ending on June 30, 2023. The money is monitored by an independent finance group to ensure it goes to the designated areas. It would expire in 4 years and cannot be renewed without voter approval, he said.

The additional revenue would add about $200 million per year for the next four years to the school district budget, Mr. Burke said.
A vote “yes” means: The money would be used to fund school safety equipment; hire additional school police and mental health professionals as mandated in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, passed by the state Legislature after the Feb. 14 shooting in Parkland. It will also fund arts, music, physical education, career and choice program teachers, and improve teacher pay.

A vote “no” means: staff cuts will likely be made for arts and career programs; the district will not be able to add additional safety measures countywide and teachers will not receive retention bonuses based on their experience, in order to help the district retain quality teachers.

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