State and Local Government Structure and Operation
BALLOT SUMMARY: “Requires legislature to retain department of veterans’ affairs. Ensures election of sheriffs, property appraisers, supervisors of elections, tax collectors, and clerks of court in all counties; removes county charters’ ability to abolish, change term, transfer duties, or eliminate election of these offices. Changes annual legislative session commencement date in even- numbered years from March to January; removes legislature’s authorization to fix another date. Creates office of domestic security and counterterrorism within department of law enforcement.”
What it’s about:
There’s a lot going on in Amendment 10 because it spans four different proposals wrapped into one.
Three of the proposals relate to state government and the topics may seem familiar because they are familiar:
1. The state already has a Department of Veterans Affairs and it’s already mentioned in the Florida Constitution. However, the current language states that “The legislature, by general law, may provide for the establishment of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
The operative word in that phrase is “may.”
The new language in Amendment 10 would make things concrete, with the Amendment stating that the legislature “shall provide for a Department of Veterans’ Affairs.” The head of the department would be Florida’s Governor and Cabinet.
2. The Florida Constitution already outlines when the Legislature meets in regular session to do its business, but Amendment 10 makes some changes. If approved, sessions would convene in March in odd-numbered years, and in January in even-numbered years.
3. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement is already involved in efforts to reduce and prevent terrorism. The Amendment goes further in creating a new department within FDLE, called the “Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism.”
The department would “provide support for prosecutors and federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies that investigate or analyze information relating to attempts or acts of terrorism or that prosecute terrorism and shall perform any other duties that are provided by law.”
4. The final proposal in Amendment 10 has been getting the most attention, and it has to do with local government. The issue is whether top county officers should be elected, rather than appointed.
While voters may think that sheriffs, tax collectors, property appraisers, supervisor of elections, and clerks of the circuit court are always elected, that’s not always the case. Certain Florida counties can appoint those local officials or even transfer their duties to another official or office.
The Amendment would set in stone that those county officials would be elected and that a county could not abolish the offices of sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, or clerk of the circuit court. Counties also could not transfer the duties of those officers to another officer or office, or change the length of the official’s four-year term.
A group of county officials recently launched a drive to educate the public on the pros of electing county officers, rather than appointing them, and has put up a website, called Amendment10.org.
The group calls Amendment 10 the “Protection Amendment” saying it protects citizens’ right to vote for their county officers. The group also supports the other three proposals in Amendment 10.
Who’s for it:
Veterans; state law enforcement officials; some lawmakers; elected sheriffs across the state; other individual county officers.
A group of county officials has a website called Amendment10.org.
Who’s against it:
The League of Women Voters of Florida; officials and taxpayers in some counties that prefer appointed county officials; voters who have issues with “bundling” four different proposals into one Amendment, which forces citizens to say “yes” on a topic they oppose to pass a topic they support, or vice versa.
The League said the proposals in Amendment 10 contain unnecessary and essentially repetitive provisions that limit voter decisions.
The statement on its website reads:
“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.”
Other key points:
Amendment 10 needs 60 percent of the vote to pass.
If approved, the proposals relating to Veterans’ Affairs, legislative session dates and the FDLE’s office of domestic security and counterterrorism would go into effect following passage of the Amendment.
The proposal related to elections of county officials would take effect Jan. 5, 2021, following elections in 2020. For Miami-Dade and Broward counties, the effective date would be Jan. 7, 2025, following elections in 2024.
About this Florida Phoenix series: Florida voters could face a whopping twelve different proposed amendments to the state Constitution on Nov. 6 – one of the longest lists ever. The amendments cover a wild ride of subjects, including complex changes to tax policy, banning offshore oil drilling and greyhound racing, expanding gambling, automatically restoring voting rights for ex-felons, setting new rules on lobbying, and even whether Florida should ban vaping in public places.
Even more challenging is that some of the amendments “bundle” several different ideas into one, meaning voters might be forced to vote for a thing they don’t like in order to approve something they want, or vice versa. (Plus, three of the amendments are mired in a legal challenge that’s before the Florida Supreme Court.)
It’s confusing, and the Phoenix is going to try in the coming days to briefly lay out all these amendments for you, explain what they will do, and tell you who supports it and who opposes it.