FFB’s Board Makes Careful Review of Proposed Amendments

I may be a little more familiar with Florida’s Constitutional amendment process than most.  Fourteen years ago, an amendment to Florida’s Constitution banned the use of gestation crates on my family’s hog farm, leading to the demise of that operation.

This initiative highlighted how a small, well-funded group could take advantage of Florida’s initiative system by using emotional language to dumb down a complex issue and ultimately have a negative effect on Florida’s family farms.

This 2002 amendment is a prime example of why Florida Farm Bureau remains wary of any constitutional initiative. Generally speaking, FFBF believes that a high standard must be met in both the merits of the issue addressed as well as the support needed for the amendment to pass.

Over the years, it has been rare for Florida Farm Bureau to support Constitutional amendments.  When it has, the reasons have been either to make it harder to amend the constitution, such as requiring a 60 percent threshold for passage, or to support an issue that would directly impact Florida agriculture.

This year’s ballot will have five Constitutional amendments, and the FFBF board has voted to support one of them.

Amendment 1 is sponsored by Consumers for Smart Solar, a diverse, bipartisan coalition of business, civic, and faith-based organizations working to promote solar energy without sacrificing commonsense consumer protections.

This amendment guarantees the right of Floridians to put solar panels on their homes or businesses and makes sure that all electricity consumers are treated equally – ensuring that those who do not choose solar are not forced to subsidize the energy choices of those who do.

Florida Farm Bureau supports Amendment 1 because it provides a proper balance.  Farmers and ranchers are both significant users of power and have the potential to be significant producers of solar power.

As solar technology continues to improve, the feasibility of producing solar energy on the roofs of chicken houses, pole barns and on agricultural property is increasing.  However, without proper safeguards, power consumers who do not produce solar energy could be forced to pay higher rates due to increased infrastructure costs from solar.

Amendment 1 will help protect Florida Farm Bureau members because it will prevent non-solar consumers from bearing increased costs while providing opportunity and commonsense consumer protections to customers who do not choose to use solar.  You can find out more at www.smartsolarfl.org.

None of the other four proposed amendments that will be on the ballot this year met the FFBF Board’s high standard for support.  Here are brief descriptions of each of the other proposals:

Amendment 2 – Use of Marijuana for Debilitating Medical Conditions
Sponsor: People United for Medical Marijuana

Allows medical use of marijuana for individuals with debilitating medical conditions as determined by a licensed Florida physician.

Amendment 3 – Tax Exemption For Totally And Permanently Disabled First Responders
Sponsor: Florida Legislature

Allows a first responder, who is totally and permanently disabled as a result of injuries sustained in the line of duty, to receive relief from ad valorem taxes assessed on homestead property.

Amendment 4 – Solar Devices Or Renewable Energy Source Devices; Exemption From Certain Taxation And Assessment
Sponsor: Florida Legislature

Allows an exemption from ad valorem taxation the assessed value of solar or renewable energy source devices subject to tangible personal property tax, and to authorize the Legislature, by general law, to prohibit consideration of such devices in assessing the value of real property for ad valorem taxation purposes.

Amendment 5 – Homestead Tax Exemption For Certain Senior, Low-Income, Long-Term Residents; Determination Of Just Value
Sponsor: Florida Legislature

Revises the homestead tax exemption that may be granted by counties or municipalities for property with just value less than $250,000 owned by certain senior, low-income, long-term residents to specify that just value is determined in the first tax year the owner applies and is eligible for the exemption.

Farm Bureau’s standard for supporting amendments is quite high, and our board believes that Amendment 1 provides the balance and the proper protections necessary to make it worthy of support.