State Legislators Want to Take Away Some of County Commissioners' Powers

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With an election set next week to recall Miami-Dade County Mayor Carlos Alvarez and County Commissioner Natacha Seijas, the air of reform is steadily streaming through county hall, but two state lawmakers don't just want a change in leadership. They want to see the powers of Miami-Dade commissioners greatly reduced. Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera of Miami and Sen. Rene Garcia of Hialeah, both recall-supporting Republicans, have filed identical bills that would eliminate some of the unique powers granted to commissioners under the home rule charter.

Miami-Dade County's government is uniquely powerful among Florida counties thanks to the home rule charter passed by state voters in 1957. The charter, which is akin to a county constitution, grants power to commissioners that would otherwise be handled by the state.

The new bill would allow state legislators from Miami-Dade to directly place referendum questions on the county ballot. Currently, they must either collect signatures or get permission from the commission.

Here's the text of House Bill HJR 1321:

Proposes amendment to s. 6, Art. VIII of State Constitution to authorize amendments of revisions to Miami-Dade County Home Rule Charter by special law approved by vote of electors of county; requires that such special law be proposed & approved at meeting of local legislative delegation & filed by member of that delegation; conforms references to reflect county's current name.

In effect, the bill would take power from one group of politicians and give it to another. Is that change you can believe in?

But the Miami Herald notes that commissioners recently have used the powers to shun meaningful reform. Of a handful of suggestions proposed in 2008 by a blue-ribbon panel including ideas such as commissioner term limits, greater protection for the urban development line, and making it easier for citizens to place items on the county ballot, commissioners chose to shun those and adopt provisions that would raise their pay.

Norman Braman, the moneybags behind the Alvarez recall, has told the Herald he supports the legislation and will lobby for it in Tallahassee.

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