Straughn v. K & K Land Management, Inc., 46397

CourtUnited States State Supreme Court of Florida
Citation326 So.2d 421
Docket NumberNo. 46397,46397
PartiesJ. Ed STRAUGHN, as Executive Director of the Florida Department of Revenue, et al., Appellants, v. K & K LAND MANAGEMENT, INC., a Florida Corporation, Appellee.
Decision Date14 January 1976

Robert L. Shevin, Atty. Gen., and William R. Cave and Larry Levy, Asst. Attys. Gen., and Michael D. Martin of Martin & Martin, Lakeland, for appellants.

Ernest J. Rice of Lowndes, Peirsol, Drosdick & Doster, Orlando, for appellee.

SUNDBERG, Justice.

This is an appeal from the Circuit Court of the Tenth Judicial Circuit, in and for Polk County, which entered a final judgment declaring Section 193.461(4) (c), Florida Statutes, to be unconstitutional. This Court has jurisdiction pursuant to Article V, Section 3(b)(1), Florida Constitution.

Appellant Straughn is Executive Director of the Department of Revenue, State of Florida. Appellant Rhoden is Tax Assessor for Polk County, Florida. Rhoden reclassified land owned by appellee as non-agricultural by denying appellee's application for an agricultural assessment for the year 1973. This determination by the Tax Assessor resulted in a reassessment of the subject property and a substantial increase in appellee's tax liability.

Section 193.461(4)(c), Florida Statutes, reads as follows:

'Sale of land for a purchase price which is three or more times the agricultural assessment placed on the land shall create a presumption that such land is not used primarily for bona fide agricultural purposes. Upon a showing of special circumstances by the landowner demonstrating that the land is to be continued in bona fide agriculture, this presumption may be rebutted.'

It was upon the authority of this rebuttable statutory presumpion that the Tax Assessor based his action. 'Purchase price paid' is set forth by Section 193.461(3)(b), Florida Statutes, 1 as one of seven criteria to be considered by tax assessors in making their determination as to whether property qualifies as agricultural for purposes of the lower tax assessment. Presumably evidence tending to confirm the agricultural nature of assessable land, i.e. 'special circumstances', should conform to the other six statutory considerations if the presumption established by Section 193.461(4)(c), Florida Statutes, is to be overcome.

In the instant case, the circuit court found Section 193.461(4)(c), Florida Statutes, to be unconstitutional as (1) an unlawful delegation of legislative authority without adequate standards and guidelines and (2) a contravention of the constitutional requirement that assessment be made solely on the 'basis of character or use'. The court also concluded that the land in question was on January 1, 1973--the relevant date for purposes of classification according to use--being used for bona fide agricultural purposes as defined by Section 193.461(3)(b), Florida Statutes, and therefore it qualified for the lower agricultural tax rate. Appellant Rhoden was ordered to make his assessment reflect this determination.

We are not persuaded that Section 193.461(4)(c), Florida Statutes, constitutes an unconstitutional offort to delegate legislative authority without proper guidelines. The phrase 'special circumstances', indicating what must be shown in order to overcome the statutory presumption at issue, should be read In pari materia with Section 193.461(3)(b), Florida Statutes, and the seven criteria for determination of taxable status enumerated therein. These considerations, which must be weighed by local tax assessors, limit the discretion of such officials to a degree sufficient to escape constitutional infirmity. See Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States, 295 U.S. 495, 55 S.Ct. 837, 79 L.Ed. 1570 (1935); Conner v. Joe Hatton, Inc., 216 So.2d 209 (Fla.1968); and Husband v. Cassel, 130 So.2d 69 (Fla.1961), for discussion of the constitutional requirements in this regard. Further, we believe that the phrase 'to be continued' as used in the challenged statute is neither ambiguous nor otherwise likely to lead to invidious classification. It simply requires the landowner who rebuts the presumption to demonstrate that he has not abandoned a bona fide agricultural use, as at January 1 of the year in question.

Nor are we persuaded that the challenged statute is unconstitutional under Article VII, Section 4(a), Florida Constitution, which provides that 'agricultural land or land used exclusively for non-commercial recreational purposes may be classified by general law and assessed solely on the basis of character or use.' It is alleged that the statutory presumption impinges upon the nature of the assessment authorized by the Constitution. We conclude, however, that the challenged statutory language affects only the Classification of purportedly agricultural property, not its assessment. Further, the constitutional provision quoted above is permissive, not mandatory; that is, the Legislature could constitutionally remove the favored treatment of agricultural property, which constitutes an exception to the general constitutional mandate of full valuation for tax purposes. As we said in Rainey v. Nelson, 257 So.2d 538, 539 (Fla.1972), '(T)here is no deprivation of a property right in denying special tax treatment to this property owner since there is no 'right' to the special treatment in the first instance.' In Rainey, this Court went on to uphold as a valid exercise of the State's police power Section 193.461(4)(b), Florida Statutes, which authorized county agricultural boards to reclassify lands as non-agricultural when such property is bounded by urban or metropolitan development on two or more sides and when such boards find that continued use of such property for agricultural purposes will deter orderly expansion of the community.

The test for the constitutionality of statutory presumptions is twofold. First, there must be a rational connection between the fact proved and the ultimate fact presumed. Tot v. United States, 319 U.S. 463, 466, 63 S.Ct. 1241, 87 L.Ed. 1519 (1943); United States v. Gainey, 380 U.S. 63, 66, 85 S.Ct. 754, 13 L.Ed.2d 658 (1965). Second, there must be a right to rebut in a fair manner. Goldstein v. Maloney, 62 Fla. 198, 57 So. 342 (1911); Black v. State, 77 Fla. 289, 81 So. 411 (1919).

We find that the instant statute meets both tests. The reduced taxation for farmland is...

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29 cases
  • Pompey v. Cochran, 93-3181
    • United States
    • Court of Appeal of Florida (US)
    • 8 Enero 1997
    ...has applied the rational connection test to statutory rebuttable presumptions in civil cases. Straughn v. K & K Land Management, Inc., 326 So.2d 421, 424 (Fla.1976) (there must be a "rational connection" and a "right to rebut in a fair manner," for the presumption to be constitutional, citi......
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    • 20 Octubre 2009
    ...ultimate fact presumed" and (2) "there must be a right to rebut [the presumption] in a fair manner." Straughn v. K & K Land Mgmt., Inc., 326 So.2d 421, 424 (Fla.1976). As the Court has explained, the presumption of causation in Special Law 364 contradicts known scientific fact and affords n......
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    • 9 Junio 1992
    ......(Supp.1990). See Grant v. Robert Half International, Inc., 597 So.2d 801 (Fla. 3d DCA 1992). Since that is true, ... Sec. 90.301(2), Fla.Stat. (1991); see also Straughn v. K & K Land Management, Inc., 326 So.2d 421, 424 ......
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    ...the subject matter dealt with and the degree of difficulty involved in articulating finite standards. See, e.g. Straughn v. K & K Land Management, Inc., 326 So.2d 421 (Fla.1976); State Dept. of Citrus v. Griffin, 239 So.2d 577 (Fla.1970). Second, it is asserted that the modern trend in admi......
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