- March 2, 2011
More than 311,000 Orange County residents and over 6 million Floridians voted in the November midterm elections. Voters decided the outcome of races for governor, attorney general, chief financial officer, and commissioner of agriculture. Orange County residents voted on several congressional, state legislative races, the Orange County Clerk of Courts, many judges, two school board members and two races for seats on the Orange County Commission. In addition, Orange County residents voted to approve three charter amendments and renewed a one-mil ad valorem tax to support public schools. This article will summarize the impact of the charter amendments on Orange County residents.
The first charter amendment approved by voters, Question A, changed procedural timeframes for citizens’ ballot initiatives. Previously, an individual or group attempting to place an ordinance or charter amendment on the ballot was required to successfully complete their petition drive at least 45 days prior to Election Day. The amendment increases the minimum time period from 45 to 150 days. The amendment makes the deadline for completing petition drives roughly equal to the qualifying deadline for candidates running for office. The 45 day time limit did not provide the Supervisor of Elections sufficient time to include amendments on ballots for military personal and others living overseas. Question A, proposed by the Orange County Commission, passed with 62.74 percent of the vote.
The second successful charter amendment, Question B, places limitations on the subject matter of citizen initiated ballot initiatives. This amendment prohibits citizen-initiated ballot initiatives from addressing employer wages, benefits or hours of work, and the spending of tax dollars on matters prohibited by Florida law. The Board of County Commissioners and now a majority of the voters agreed these type issues should be addressed at the state or federal level and not by individual counties. Question B passed with 50.8 percent of votes cast.
The final successful charter amendment, Question D, expands term limits to include constitutional officers such as the Clerk of the Court, Comptroller, Property Appraiser, Sheriff, Supervisor of Elections, and Tax Collector. This amendment makes elections for these offices non-partisan similar to the County Mayor and County Commissioners. Officials holding these positions would be limited to four consecutive four-year terms. These elections were previously partisan and without term limits. The public overwhelmingly supported the amendment, proposed by the Orange County Commission, with 71.49 percent of citizens voting for approval.
A fourth proposed charter amendment, which was not proposed by the Orange County Commission, failed to achieve the majority necessary to pass. This amendment, Question C, proposed by a citizen initiative, would have changed all charter office elections, which are the County Mayor and County Commissioners, from nonpartisan to partisan. This charter amendment would have moved elections for all charter offices elected countywide, which only describes the office of the County Mayor, to a presidential election cycle in 2016. The Mayor had just been reelected in 2014. The amendment would also shorten the current term of the County Mayor to conform to this change. Question C failed to pass with only 45.83 percent of the vote.
A final item, a special referendum initiated by the Orange County School Board, was approved by voters. This referendum adds an additional one mil to an owner’s property tax bill, continuing a practice that was first passed by referendum in 2010. The school board plans to use the additional tax revenue from the extra mil to fund academic programs, arts education, student athletics, other student activities, as well as personnel costs. The special referendum passed with 76.62 percent of the vote.
I hope you had the opportunity to go to the polls in November and vote on important charter amendments, the special referendum, and for the elected officials that will lead our community over their terms in office. Citizen participation in elections is a key part of a healthy democracy. Detailed information on the outcome of each race within Orange County is available through the Supervisor of Elections office at http://ocfelections.com/ocfelections.asp
As always, if you have any questions or concerns about any issue facing Orange County, please do not hesitate to contact me or my staff, Edgar Robinson and Lynette Rummel. We can be reached at 407-836-7350 or by email and [email protected]