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The Representative Districts and County Reform Amendment

The Representative Districts and County Reform Amendment

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Published by Billy Manes
Fred Brummer's charter amendment
Fred Brummer's charter amendment

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Published by: Billy Manes on Feb 24, 2014
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04/12/2014

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February 24, 2014 To: Mayor Teresa Jacobs and the Board of County Commissioners From: Frederick C. Brummer The purpose of this memo is to provide insight into the changes to the Orange County Charter that I have  proposed in the ordinance attached to my memo to Mayor Teresa Jacobs dated February 21, 2014 of which you have a copy. Your consideration will be appreciated.
The Representative Districts and County Reform Amendment Introduction
The ordinance discussed herein proposes an amendment to the Orange County Charter, calls a mail ballot election for May 27, 2014 for a referendum on the proposed charter amendment, and provides the following  ballot title and ballot summary for the referendum:
CHARTER AMENDMENT ADDING COMMISSION DISTRICTS, REVISING INITIATIVE AND REFERENDUM REQUIREMENTS, AND RELATING TO COUNTY OFFICERS
Shall the Orange County Charter be amended to increase the number of county commission districts and commissioners from six to eight, require the county commission to adopt a redistricting plan for the eight commission districts in 2014, revise requirements and limitations relating to certain charter amendments and ordinances by initiative, abolish the office of Tax Collector and consolidate its functions with County Government, and provide for term limits and nonpartisan elections for all county officers?
Adding Two New County Commission Districts in 2014
 
Why We Need It:
 Orange County has doubled in population since 1986 when the charter was first created (from 600k to 1.2m) and yet we have the same number of county commissioners representing double the number of citizens. This
 
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huge increase in citizens per commission district has had the effect of keeping our Board of County Commissioners from reflecting the diversity of our community. The addition of two new county commission districts will reduce the number of citizens each commissioner represents, allowing greater access for citizens to their elected officials. The addition of two new county commission districts, along with an attendant redistricting process that takes into account the diversity of our community, will create greater access for candidates of every background. In particular, the voice of the county’s substantial Hispanic community has  been heard through the recent VRA lawsuit. Trial dates for that case are set for this summer. Amending the charter now to create two new districts will be a tremendous show of good faith heading into the trial, and may obviate the need for the trial.
 How We Do It:
 The proposed charter amendment adds two new county commission districts and commissioners to the BCC. It  provides that a Redistricting Advisory Committee shall be appointed in June 2014, and that they shall finalize and deliver their recommendations for drawing the eight districts to the BCC by October 1, 2014. The BCC must then approve a redistricting plan by December 1, 2014. While the four months provided for the RAC is an aggressive timeline for redrawing the county commission districts, the length of the process all the more underscores the necessity of a May mail ballot to approve the proposed charter amendment.
Revising the Initiative Petition Standards
Why We Need It:
 The county initiative petition process has been steadily politicized, with a rise in initiative petitions funded by narrow, out-of-town special interests and groups with extremist proposals holding hostage essential functions of county government and curtailing the rights of county citizens. The Florida Constitution preempts county governments’ ability to raise the voting standard to 60% for changes to our founding document, as has been done for state constitution initiative petitions, so some rational standards must be implemented to ensure that our founding document is not tampered with for narrow, extreme, or purely political reasons, and to ensure that our community is not subjected to an avalanche of divisive, destructive, and manipulative issues undermining civility and community spirit.
 How We Do It:
 The proposed charter amendment revises the number of signatures necessary for initiative petitions proposing charter amendments or initiative ordinances. The current threshold number of signatures for charter amendments is 10% of the number of electors from a majority of the commission districts. With 6 commission districts, this equates to roughly 6.3% of the county electorate. With the increase to 8 commission districts, the effective threshold would shrink to 4.4% of the county electorate. The proposed charter amendment revises the threshold to 15% of the number of electors from each commission district. The threshold for initiative ordinances is revised from 7% of the number of electors from each commission district to 10%. In addition, the time period in which the signatures can be collected is revised from 180 days to 90 days. Finally, the notice  period between when the BCC calls a referendum on an initiative petition and the next election at which the referendum will be held is revised from 45 days to 120 days, in order to provide adequate notice to the public and provide an opportunity for potential legal challenges to be managed in an orderly manner.
Revising Initiative Petition Subject Matter Parameters
Why We Need It:
 As discussed above, as the steady politicization of the county initiative petition process has been driven by narrow, out-of-town special interests and groups with extremist proposals, the charter amendment clarifies that the local initiative petition process cannot be used as a political tool to infringe the rights of county citizens and
 
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 businesses, to hold the county hostage on issues that are not within its legislative purview, or when issues are otherwise preempted to the state.
 How We Do It:
 The Orange County Charter already sets forth a list of limitations on the subject matter of certain initiative  petitions. The proposed charter amendment revises this list, and provides a clear process for enforcement of such limitations. The revised Section 603B provides that the charter’s initiative petition process shall not extend to “the regulation of private economic activity”, certain speculative encumbrances of tax revenues for illegal  purposes, or shortening the term of any office during its term or in the year prior to it, to provide candidates appropriate notice of the actual term of the office upon which they may embark. The revised Sections 603C and 603D resolve a long-time ambiguity in the charter concerning the enforcement mechanism for the charter limitations on initiative petition subject matter. In particular, these provisions prohibit the BCC from enacting or calling a referendum on the adoption of the initiative petition if the subject matter of the initiative violates the charter limitations.
Bringing the Tax Collector Into County Government
 
Why We Need It:
 Tax Collection is an inherently administrative function, and with the substantial apparatus of Orange County Government, it does not need a separate organization. In its review, the Orange County Tax Collector Feasibility Task Force found upwards of $1 million dollars per year in savings by just eliminating duplicative upper management positions, and found no evidence of alleged risks associated with consolidation.
 How We Do It:
 One of the recommendations of the Tax Collector’s Office Feasibility Task Force was to abolish the constitutional office of Tax Collector pursuant to the county’s power under Article VIII, Section 1(d) of the Florida Constitution, and transfer all of the duties of that office to Orange County Government, with the Tax Collector appointed as a charter officer in the same manner as County Department heads. The proposed charter amendment implements that recommendation.
Making County Officer Elections Nonpartisan and Subject to Term Limits
Why We Need It:
The constitutional offices of Sheriff, Clerk of the Court, Comptroller, Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, and Supervisor of Elections are each positions that administer substantial portions of our fundamental rights and several important ministerial duties that should be handled with fairness and complete impartiality. Partisan elections for these offices necessarily lead to a perception of political partiality in the minds of the public. In addition, as a larger portion of the county electorate chooses to register to vote with no party affiliation, partisan elections for county offices disenfranchise these nonpartisan voters from a critical portion of the county officer selection process. Furthermore, the County Commission, State Representatives, State Senators and even the Governor and Cabinet are subjected to term limits, because politicians should not make a career out of elective office. Our County Officers are not any more important than the Governor or President such that they should be exempt from term limits.
 How We Do It:
 The proposed charter amendment provides that elections for all remaining county officers (Sheriff, Clerk of the Court, Comptroller, Property Appraiser, and Supervisor of Elections) will be held on a nonpartisan basis. The  proposed charter amendment also imposes prospective two-term term limits on county officers, beginning with their next term in 2016.

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