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Constitutional Officers Urge CRC To Review Election Conflict In Florida's Constitution

Andrew Quintana

Florida’s full 37-member Constitution Revision Commission is meeting this week to consider proposed amendments that could be placed on the 2018 ballot. One proposal addresses a conflict in Florida’s Constitution dealing with elections.

On Monday, The Constitutional Officer Resource Experts, or C.O.R.E, came together to support proposal 13. It would ensure all constitutional officers be appointed by the voters of each county they hold office in.  

The proposal’s sponsor is Commissioner Carolyn Timmann.

“Proposal 13 ensures that county charters cannot dilute, overpower, absorb or dissolve these important duties on behalf of the people. Nor can they do so to our offices, and move them away from the people they were constitutionally created to protect,” Timmann says.

These constitutional officers consist of Sheriffs, Clerks of Court, Tax Collectors, and Property Appraisers.

In 1885, Florida’s Constitution gave the responsibility of appointing these officers to the voters of the county.

But, in 1968, Florida’s Constitution adopted Home Rule provisions. These allow cities and counties to enact ordinances without the state’s approval, which has led to eight counties changing the manner in which a constitutional officer is selected.

Lee County Tax Collector Larry Hart says this shift in power takes away a constitutional officer’s accountability.

“There’s no better model of direct accountability than democracy. As Tax Collectors, we see citizens not only in our offices, but also in our churches, our grocery stores, as well as our restaurants. We have to provide a high quality of service and be consistent at what we do,” Hart says. 

For Walton County Sheriff Michael Adkinson, this accountability forces officers to adapt to the environment they serve.

“It is critically important, because we believe that while Florida is a unified state, there are differences between the way things are conducted in Dade County, or Lafayette County, or Walton County from that standpoint. Law enforcement works best when there is a relationship with our bosses, the citizens of the county. That’s what makes it different. That these constitutional officers have a responsibility to best adapt their services, the stewardship of their offices, to the citizens they serve,” Adkinson says.

If passed by the 37-member CRC, the proposal will be placed in the 2018 ballot.