County Government / Elections

Miami-Dade County Charter Amendments, the Long Breakdown

October 26, 2018

Back in April we gave you a rundown of the proposed referenda the County Commission were considering for inclusion on the November ballot. That 300-page document has since been whittled down to six ballot measures. Unlike the statewide ballot amendments, which need a supermajority 60% of voters approval to become law, these referenda only need 51% of the vote to pass.

If you’re a resident who lives between Aventura and North Miami Beach, you may have an additional measure on your ballot asking if you’d like your community to become its own city. If you’re a resident of 12 of Miami-Dade county’s cities or villages holding referenda this year, you’ll have some additional ballot measures to vote on which can be found here or by checking out your sample ballot through Miami-Dade county’s website.

County Referendum 1: Charter Amendment Relating to Nonpartisan Election of Clerk of the Circuit Court

What you’ll see on your ballot: Shall the Charter be amended to require that the election of Clerk of the Circuit Court be conducted on a nonpartisan basis and that no ballot show the party designation of any candidate for Clerk of the Circuit Court?

Translation: Should the Miami-Dade Court Clerk be a nonpartisan office?

Background: All candidates for Miami-Dade’s county offices run on a nonpartisan basis except for the County Clerk. Current Court Clerk Harvey Ruvin is a Democrat and supports this referendum, stating “I believe that the office of Clerk of Courts should always be seen as neutral and even-handed.” Court Clerks perform a wide range of tasks for judicial systems, which include managing court records, conducting research for judges, scheduling court dates and issuing common documents like marriage licenses.

County Referendum 2: Charter Amendment Relating to County Appointed Officials and Employees Running for Certain Elective Office

What you’ll see on your ballot: The Charter currently requires that County appointed officials or employees qualifying to run for federal, state, or municipal elective office take a leave of absence and, if elected, immediately forfeit their County position. Shall the Charter be amended to limit this restriction to only apply to County officials and employees who qualify as a candidate for certain County elected offices?

Translation: Right now, all Miami-Dade employees and elected officials are required to take a leave of absence if they run for certain offices. Should we change this rule so that it only applies to county elected officials and employees running for county-level offices?

Background: This proposed rule change would make Miami-Dade more similar to other populous counties in Florida. Broward, Hillsborough, Orange, Pinellas and Lee counties require their employees to take a leave of absence and quit their position only if their new elected office is in another part of the county government or if their new position presents a conflict of interest to their county job. In theory, this rule change would allow county employees, including county commissioners, to run for city offices.

County Referendum 3: Charter Amendment Regarding Elections for County Commissioners and Mayor

What you’ll see on your ballot: Shall the Charter be amended to require that the Board of County Commissioners shall determine the legal sufficiency of an initiatory petition at the next Board meeting after the Clerk of Courts approves the petition form rather than after the required signatures have been gathered?

Translation: When people are planning to run a citizen-driven petition to change a county law, should the county’s lawyers be required to verify whether the proposed petition is legal before the drive?

Background: Back in 2016, several groups collected signatures in Miami-Dade to change the way county politicians could fundraise for elections. They met their deadlines and garnered enough signatures, only to have the county’s legal experts determine that the proposed change in the law was flawed and ineligible to be included on the ballot. This proposed rule change is intended to prevent another scenario like this from happening again by requiring that the county’s lawyers review petitions for their legal feasibility before citizens go through the trouble of collecting signatures.

County Referendum 4: Charter Amendment Regarding Elections for County Commissioners and Mayor

What you’ll see on the ballot: Shall the Charter be amended to provide that when a candidate for County Commission or Mayor withdraws, becomes disqualified, or becomes deceased prior to an election no votes cast for such candidate shall be deemed elected to office?

Translation: If a candidate for Mayor or County Commission dies or becomes disqualified, should he/she be dropped from the race?

Background: Miami-Dade technically follows this rule, but this charter change would simply make it official and eliminate any uncertainty in runoff elections. In 2016, one candidate for commissioner died and another withdrew in the middle of the race and neither of their votes were counted.

County Referendum 5: Charter Amendment Prohibiting Certain Payments Circulators of Initiatory Petitions

What you’ll see on the ballot: Shall the Charter be amended to prohibit any person circulating an initiatory petition from paying or offering to pay any individual or organization, or receive payment or agree to receive payment, on a basis related to the number of signatures obtained for circulating the petition and invalidate any petitions collected in violation of this prohibition?

Translation: Should it be illegal for organizations to pay canvassers for the number of signatures they collect in petition drives?

Background: Typically petition drives are run by organizations who pay canvassers to collect signatures. These canvassers can be paid based on how long they work (per day or per hour) or by how many signatures they collect. This amendment would prohibit organizations from paying canvassers based on how many signatures they collect. The League of Women Voters supports this measure, while Commissioner Xavier Suarez and the Miami-Dade Democratic Party oppose it.

School Board Referendum

What you’ll see on the ballot: Shall the School Board of Miami-Dade County, Florida, levy 0.75 mills of ad valorem taxes for operational funds to (1) to improve compensation for high quality teachers and instructional personnel, and (2) to increase school safety and security personnel, with oversight by a Citizen Advisory Committee, beginning July 1, 2019, and ending June 30, 2023?

Translation: Should we temporarily raise taxes to give Miami-Dade teachers a raise and to pay for school security personnel?

Background: Miami is the fourth-most expensive city in the country for an educator to live, ranking only behind Washington, D.C., Boston, and Los Angeles. This proposed tax hike would raise their pay by about 20% and would cover some of the costs associated with a new state law that requires at least one police officer in each school. The tax hike would cost the average homeowner an additional $142 and would expire in 2023. The funds would be managed by a citizen oversight committee to ensure they are spent properly.

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