County Government

Updating the Miami-Dade Charter

April 9, 2018

At least every five years our county charter (which is the constitution that sets out how our county government operates) undergoes review by a special task force. That review has just been completed and now the task force has released their report, including a set of recommended changes to the county charter. The full report clocks in at over 300 pages so we’re breaking down the recommendations for you along with what happens next since the task force has finished up their review.

Now that the charter task force has met and emerged with a set of suggested amendments, what’s next? Well, now they will present those recommendations at an upcoming commission meeting (date tbd). Once that happens commissioners can sponsor any of these amendments to go on the ballot for you to vote on in the general election this fall. Miami-Dade residents can also petition for an amendment to be included the ballot.

When the task force recommendations are presented at a county commission meeting, commissioners will have the chance to voice what amendments they’d like to advance onto the ballot for the public (aka you) to vote on this fall. Below we’ve broken down the recommended amendments from the charter review task force so that you can better understand these proposed changes. For a detailed overview of the task force’s work, please check out their report and extensive notes from their final meeting. Additionally, you can reach out to your commissioner’s office if there is an amendment that you strongly feel they should support.

Proposed Charter Amendments

#1: Commission Compensation

Increase Commissioner salaries to the amount set by the State formula for county commissioner salaries (currently $99,997).

What this means: An increase in commissioner salary translates to everyday people being able to afford to run and serve the public. The salary calculated takes into account current cost of living and salary standards in the state. For a full breakdown of the formula used, check out the task force report.

#2: Nonpartisan Elections

Provide that elections for Office of the Clerk of Courts be nonpartisan.

What this means: Candidates for the Clerk of Courts will no longer run based on party affiliation (FYI, county commissioner races are also nonpartisan).

#3: Election and Commencement of Terms of County Commissioners

Repeal term limits for County Commissioners.

What this means: Currently commissioners cannot run for election again if they have served two terms back-to-back (i.e. 8 years). This amendment would eliminate that term limit so that a commissioner could continue to run for reelection as many times as they wish. The task force rationale for eliminating term limits is that expertise in local government takes many years to accumulate and is an important asset for governing.

#4: Commission Office of Budget and Management

Change the name of the Office of Commission Auditor to the Commission of the Office of Budget and Research and remove the requirement that the Director be a certified public accountant.

What this means: This recommendation is pretty straightforward but to provide some context from the larger report: the main job of this director position and office is to give the County Commission independent analysis of of county services, contracts, and policies.

#5: Forfeiture of Office of County Elected and Appointed Officials and Employees

Limit the requirement for a County appointed official or employee of the County who qualifies as a candidate for elective office to take a leave of absence and, if elected to forfeit his or her County position, only to those who qualify for County elective office.

What this means: County employees and elected officials would be able to run for municipal, state, and federal positions without having to take a leave of absence. If running for a County position they would still be required to take a leave of absence and (if elected) leave their position.

#6: Initiative and Referendum

Preclude persons circulating Initiative and Referendum petitions from paying or receiving payment on a basis related to the number of signatures obtained for circulating the petition.

What this means: This amendment would stipulate that people gathering signatures cannot financially incentivise it, which the task force believes will reduce opportunity for fraud.

#7: Initiative and Referendum

Provide that the County Commission shall determine the legal sufficiency of citizen Initiative and Referendum petitions prior to collection of signatures.

What this means: Before a group has collected signatures for a petition, the legality of the petition will be evaluated. Currently, that evaluation takes place at the end of petition gathering. This would help to ensure that petition gathering work isn’t wasted due to legal issues with a given petition’s language. Additionally, the legality of the petition would be determined by the County Commission, not by the Clerk of Courts.

#8: Election and Commencement of the Mayor and County Commissioners

Amend the Charter to provide that the names of unopposed candidates for Mayor and County Commissioners shall not appear on the runoff election ballot and a runoff election shall not take place. Each unopposed candidate shall be deemed to have voted for himself or herself. No votes cast in favor of any candidate who withdraws or becomes disqualified or deceased prior to any election shall be counted. In the event that no candidate has qualified for Mayor or County Commissioner, a vacancy shall be deemed to have occurred, and shall be filled as provided by this Charter for the filling of a vacancy.

What this means: This would eliminate from the ballot candidates who are running unopposed for the position of Mayor or County Commissioner, saving taxpayers money that would have to be spent on a runoff election for an unopposed candidate.