State and Local Government Structure and Operation
Analysis and Opinion
From the League of Women Voters
Editor’s Note: This is a 12-day series that looks at each amendment the League of Women Voters analyzed and made a recommendation. Today their analysis and recommendation are on Amendment 10.
Requires the Legislature to hold its session in early January on even-numbered years; creates an Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; mandates the existence of a state Department of Veterans’ Affairs; forces all counties to elect a sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and Clerk of Circuit Court.
This limits the voters in local communities from deciding on the election of county officers. It adds an unnecessary provision as the Constitution already has the power to set dates during even-numbered years. FDLE is already the lead agency in coordinating efforts to prevent terrorism, and the Constitution already has authorized the Legislature to create a Department of Veteran Affairs. This amendment is clearly an effort to restrict the powers of local government.
Full Summary: This question has four parts.
- The Constitution requires the Legislature to begin its 60-day lawmaking session on the first Tuesday in March in odd-numbered years but allows the Legislature to set a date for even-numbered years. This part of the amendment would force the Legislature to begin its session on the second Tuesday in January during even-numbered years (a CRC analysis of this proposal is here). In recent years, lawmakers have opted for January sessions, saying it allows them to spend spring break with their children. An earlier session in even-numbered years also allows politicians to get an earlier start campaigning for re-election.
- State law already designates the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as the lead agency in coordinating efforts to prevent acts of terrorism and respond to them. Other laws outline various responsibilities for combatting terrorism (a CRC analysis of this proposal is here). This part of the amendment creates an Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism within the FDLE and mandates that the office will support other agencies involved with investigation and prosecution related to terrorism. According to an analysis, the proposal designates the FDLE is the “lead domestic security and counter-terrorism agency in Florida.”
- The Constitution currently authorizes the Legislature to create a Department of Veterans’ Affairs. In other words, it’s optional. Although the state has created such a department, this part of Amendment 10 makes a Veterans’ Department mandatory, not optional. This part also places the governor and Cabinet in charge of the department, which it already is under current state law (a CRC analysis of this proposal is here).
- Florida’s counties are divided into charter and non-charter counties. County charters are voter-approved documents that act much like local constitutions in that they outline how the county is governed. Twenty of the state’s counties, including its largest – Miami-Dade, Broward, Pinellas, Orange, and Duval, to name a few – operate under charters. Some of those counties have stopped holding elections for offices such as tax collector, instead transferring those duties to county departments. In other instances, those offices are elected but some of their duties have been removed or altered. This part of the amendment would apply to those 20 charter counties by requiring them to let voters elect someone to all five of the county offices in the state Constitution – sheriff, property appraiser, tax collector, supervisor of elections and clerk of circuit court. According to a CRC analysis, voters in eight counties have approved charters that changed or eliminated at least one constitutional office. Miami-Dade, for example, does not elect a sheriff. Volusia and Broward counties don’t have elected tax collectors. These offices would have to be restored if this amendment passes, and voters allowed to elect someone to those offices every four years. The amendment is silent on whether charter counties could make those races non-partisan, as Orange County voters have attempted to do, and it’s not clear whether those counties could impose term limits. For most counties, this amendment would take effect on Jan. 5, 2021, if it passes, but counties would be required to hold elections for those offices in 2020. For Miami-Dade and Broward counties, it takes effect on Jan. 2, 2025, but those two counties have to hold elections for the constitutional offices in 2024.