Florida: Lawmakers seek voter approval for several constitutional amendments

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Three joint resolutions addressing ad valorem tax exemptions, put forward by three different committees, have made their way through Florida’s legislature and were filed with the secretary of state this month.

The bill analyses for all three resolutions explain Florida’s annual ad valorem tax as one levied by counties, cities, school districts, and some special districts based on the value of real and tangible personal property as of January 1 of each year. The Florida Constitution reserves ad valorem taxation to local governments, and prohibits the state from levying ad valorem taxes on real and tangible personal property.

Here are summaries of the amendments at issue:

House Joint Resolution 193: Introduced by the Regulatory Affairs Committee and several individuals, HJR 193 proposes that the state constitution be amended to allow lawmakers to exempt, from ad valorem taxation, the assessed value of solar devices or renewable energy source devices that are subject to tangible personal property tax. It also authorizes the legislature to prohibit the consideration of the installation of such devices in determining the assessed value of residential and nonresidential real property for the purpose of ad valorem taxation. The amendment would take effect on Jan. 1, 2018, and expire on Dec. 31, 2037.

The most recent analysis also states that HJR 193 expands the current constitutional provision by including all real property, not just real property used for residential purposes, and that these are permissive. Thus, the resolution does not require the legislature to enact implementing legislation.

The analysis also establishes that there would be no impact on state revenues, and that the advertising costs would be about $357,873, necessary because the Florida Constitution requires proposed amendments or constitutional revisions to be published in a newspaper of general circulation in each county where a newspaper is published. Finally, 60 percent of voters must approve HJR 193 in order for it to pass.

House Joint Resolution 1009: The Local and Federal Affairs Committee, and individual lawmakers, would authorize a first responder, who is totally and permanently disabled as a result of an injury sustained in the line of duty, to receive relief from ad valorem taxes assessed on homestead property. The first responder’s disability must be determined as provided by general law. In addition, the first responder must establish a causal connection between the disability and his/her service in the line of duty.

As with joint resolution 193, there would be no impact on state revenues, and 60 percent of voters must approve of HRJ 1009 in order for it to pass. Advertising/publication costs would be about $151,742.

House Joint Resolution 275: The Florida Constitution provides that when authorized by general law, counties and municipalities may grant an additional homestead exemption equal to the assessed value of property to any person 65 years of age or older who is the legal or equitable title holder to real estate with a just value (i.e. fair market value) at less than $250,000, and who has lived there for not less than 25 years. If the property’s just value rises above $250,000, the person no longer qualifies for the additional exemption.

The proposed amendment contained in Joint Resolution 275 limits the just value determination, for purposes of the exemption, to the value as determined in the first tax year that the owner applies for and is eligible for the exemption. This protects the homeowner from becoming ineligible for the tax break due to a rise in home value caused either by changes in the market, or by improvements the homeowner made to the property.

If approved by 60 percent of voters, HJR 275 would take effect on Jan. 1, 2017, but would operate retroactively to Jan. 1, 2013, for any person who received the exemption prior to Jan. 1, 2017.

As for the fiscal impact, if all counties and municipalities currently allowing the exemption continue to do so, the estimated impact on local government revenues would be –$2.3 million in fiscal year 2016-17, –$500,000 in fiscal year 2017-18, and growing to –$1.2 million in fiscal year 2020-21.

If all counties and municipalities in the state were to adopt the exemption as amended by this legislation, the estimated statewide impact (excluding school and special district levies, which are not authorized to grant this exemption) is –$1.6 million in fiscal year 2017-18, growing to –$4.2 million in fiscal year 2020-21.

Full publication costs for advertising this proposed constitutional amendment would be approximately $133,000.

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