By Ashley Lopez
Florida Center for Investigative Reporting
Only three of the 11 proposed changes to the state constitution passed this week.
That’s due in part to the fact that most of the money raised for campaigns regarding the constitutional amendments was spent in opposition.
All 11 ballot measures in Florida came from the increasingly unpopular Florida Legislature, and all but three measures failed to garner the 60 percent approval votes they needed to pass.
This year, the Legislature did not educate the public on these measures or offer effective campaigns defending the measures.
Instead, the ballot measures — including amendments to restrict public funding of abortion, remove the ban on public funding of religious groups, and change how justices are appointed in the state Supreme Court — saw big money opposing their passage.
Groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, Planned Parenthood, the Florida Education Association and PICO spent millions to defeat these measures — and the money worked.
The only amendments that passed did not have campaigns for or against them. Amendments 2, 9 and 11 gave property tax exemptions to veterans, senior citizens and spouses of service members.
The only amendment that had a strong campaign for it was Amendment 4, and it failed.
Amendment 4 would have granted property tax breaks to snowbirds and property investors. Local government officials across the state warned that the amendment would drain revenues from counties and municipalities, shifting costs from snowbirds to full-time residents.
In total, $4.7 million was raised in support of that amendment and much of that money came from two organizations — the Florida Association of Realtors and the National Association of Realtors. However, in the end, the amendment only received 43 percent support from voters in Florida.
However, a campaign against Amendment 3, which would have required state officials to calculate tax revenues according to population change and inflation (instead of personal incomes), raised $1.8 million. Meanwhile, no money was spent in favor of the amendment. Amendment 3 only received 42 percent approval from voters.
Amendment 6, however, did have an organized campaign in favor of the amendment — which, if passed would have removed the right to privacy in Florida and would have added language to the state constitution prohibiting public funding of abortions. Even though proponents raised $518,000 for their campaign, it was no match against the $3 million raised by groups working to defeat the amendment. The ballot measure received only 45 percent support from voters.
The controversial “religious freedom” amendment, or Amendment 8, saw campaigns similar to the ones for and against Amendment 6. Amendment 8 would have removed a constitutional ban on public funding of religious institutions.
Proponents of Amendment 8 raised about $514,000 in support of the amendment, but opponents raised $1.4 million. The amendment failed, with 45 percent from voters supporting it.
Finally, there was Amendment 5, which would have granted the Florida Senate the power to approve state Supreme Court justices appointed by the governor. This controversial amendment had no money supporting its passage, but did manage to raise a meager $242,000 in opposition. This amendment also failed, with only 37 percent support from voters — the lowest percentage of votes any amendment received.
In total, about $12.3 million were raised for and against ballot measures this year, and most of the money spent in favor of amendments was spent in support of Amendment 4. The bulk of money spent against amendments was spent on a wide swath of controversial amendments, which all failed by significant margins.