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Tuesday, Aug 14, 2018
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Voters statewide could bring changes to other counties’ governments

TALLAHASSEE — Voters across Florida would be asked to decide if Miami-Dade County should have an elected sheriff. Greyhound racing would be banned in Florida. And the lieutenant governor would have to head a state agency.

Those are just some of the 37 proposals pending before the Constitution Revision Commission and among those that have gotten little attention as the panel seeks public input at a six-hour hearing in Broward County today.

The commission is the powerful citizen board that’s charged with putting proposals directly on the November general election ballot once every 20 years. It must decide by May 10 which of the proposals to include and has scheduled a statewide "Road to the Ballot" public hearing tour.

One hearing is planned for March 13 at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg.

Each of the proposals has made it through the first round of votes in committees and must receive approval by the full commission.

Many of the proposals are actions the Legislature could take itself: an amendment to require that civics be taught in schools, another to require a candidate for the Legislature to live in the district upon qualifying for office, and another to require that the Legislature properly fund clerks of court.

Other proposals attempt to use the state Constitution to referee perennial legislative turf battles. Proposal 54, for example, eliminates the Certificate of Need requirements to get a license to operate hospitals, nursing homes, hospices or intermediate care facilities.

One proposal would affect only eight counties: Brevard, Broward, Clay, Duval, Miami-Dade, Orange, Osceola and Volusia. Under Proposal 13, charter counties would be banned from eliminating any elected positions.

The measure, by Martin County Clerk of Court Carolyn Timmann, a member of the commission, is the same proposal former state Sen. Frank Artiles pursued in the last several sessions to have the whole state vote on whether Miami-Dade County should have an elected sheriff, supervisor of elections and tax collector.

Under the proposal, counties that have transferred some duties from their elected officials would be affected, but the measure has the greatest impact on Miami-Dade — where it’s opposed by county commissioners.

"It doesn’t directly affect 59 of the 67 counties that would be voting on it,’’ said Jess McCarty, assistant county attorney, at the meeting of the commission’s Local Government Committee in November.

The county has a directly elected strong mayor and, not unlike big cities with an appointed police chief, appoints its sheriff, he said. The county should have the ability to change its own structure of government, not other parts of the state, McCarty said.

He noted that in 2008 the county shifted from appointed to elected property appraiser but continues to appoint its sheriff, supervisor of elections and tax collector.

"It’s safe to say there will be people who vote on this who have never been to Miami-Dade County,’’ McCarty said, warning that it will lead to more government by having additional constitutional officers, each with a different bureaucracy.

Timmann, whose county isn’t a charter county, denied the measure was targeted at Miami-Dade.

"The residents of each county should have the opportunity to clearly vote on this proposal,’’ she said. "We believe that elected officials are the most responsive to the people."

She accused Miami-Dade officials of attempting to silence supporters of the proposal and denied the idea was directed at any one county but is "a statewide issue about principles of government."

Hank Coxe, chairman of the commission’s Ethics and Elections Committee who lives in Duval, one of the counties affected by the proposal, was the only vote against the measure when it came before his committee in December.

"It appears to address a problem that the affected people aren’t claiming is a problem in their areas,’’ he said.

Also opposing the measure were officials from Broward County, which doesn’t have an elected tax collector. They told the commission the amendment could force the clerk of court to be the custodian of funds for the county — as clerks do in rural counties.

The full commission will next decide whether to include it on the November ballot.

Contact Mary Ellen Klas at [email protected] Follow

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