The Florida Constitutional Revision Commission meets just once every 20 years to consider possible changes to Florida’s Constitution. As part of this year’s meeting of the 37-member commission, the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties presented an overview of the municipal bonding process and submitted suggestions for changes to Florida’s Constitution.
JoLinda Herring, a 23-year municipal finance expert and BMO shareholder, presented to the Commission on Tuesday, October 31 on behalf of her client, the Florida League of Cities, and the Florida Association of Counties. Ms. Herring was able to help better educate Commission members on municipal bonding in the State of Florida and the effect on cities and counties.
In consultation with the Florida League of Cities and the Florida Association of Counties, Herring presented two potential changes to the Florida Constitution for the Commission’s consideration:
1. Article VII Section 10 of the Florida Constitution specifies authority for the pledging of credit related to capital projects “of industrial or manufacturing plants.” Unfortunately, there is no clear legal definition of “industrial or manufacturing plants,” leaving courts and local governments uncertain about what types of capital projects are eligible.
The recommendation was to strike the phrase “industrial or manufacturing plants,” to eliminate confusion about which capital projects qualify.
2. Article VII Section 12 references authorization of local bonds, “only when approved by the voters.” Currently, this phrase contains a reference to voters who are “owners of freeholds.”
The recommendation was to remove this reference to “owners of freeholds,” to put the Florida Constitution in compliance with a 1970 U.S. Supreme Court decision that held this language in violation of the equal protection clause. The term “freehold” is a historic reference to the feudal system wherein individuals who owned estates had the right to vote, but non-land owners did not.
After numerous questions by the Commission, the Commission thanked Ms. Herring for her presentation and commented on her expert knowledge.
To date, a total of 71 commissioner proposals and 782 public proposals have been submitted for consideration by the Commission. Next, the Commission will narrow down the list of measures that will go on next year’s general election ballot for final approval by voters.
The deadline for a measure to be placed on the November 2018 ballot is May 10. To get on the ballot, proposed measures require support from 22 of the 37 commission members, Then, once it’s on the ballot, a measure requires 60 percent approval from voters to be enacted.