Voters considering Constitutional Amendment 10 will have a number of items to contemplate, but this proposal put forward by the Constitution Revision Commission might best be viewed as a power struggle between state and local governments.
The most controversial question put to voters is whether they believe five county offices, those of sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections and clerk of circuit court should be elected in every county in the state.
In Okaloosa, Santa Rosa and Walton counties, all of these offices are elected positions, but in 8 of 20 Florida counties considered charter counties – counties with charters that allow them to make some decisions regarding local governance – offices like the head of law enforcement or clerk of court are appointed.
Counties like Miami-Dade, where an appointed police director oversees law enforcement, or Volusia, which has divided traditional sheriff’s duties between departments of public safety and corrections, are opposing Amendment 10 along with the Florida Association of Counties.
If Amendment 10 passes, the counties who by their charters choose not to elect sheriffs or clerks would be constitutionally bound to do so.
“[The measure] would eliminate the constitutional right of local citizens to govern their sheriff, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, and the management of county finances,” the Florida Association of Counties said in statement.
The Florida Sheriff’s Association, the state’s Tax Collectors Association and the Florida Constitutional Officers Resource Officers, a group dedicated to uniting the state’s constitutional officers, all support Amendment 10.
“The right of citizens to vote for the Constitutional Officers who represent us should be protected in our Constitution, not relegated to unaccountable bureaucrats,” Okaloosa County Sheriff Larry Ashley said in a statement.
If Amendment 10 passes, it would constitutionally require the existence of a Florida Department of Veterans Affairs. Since a Department of Veterans Affairs is presently functioning in the state, the amendment would effectively bar its dismantling.
The amendment also proposes to create a counter-terrorism and security office under the purview of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
It would also require the Florida Legislature to convene during even-numbered years in January rather than March.
"The responsibility of protecting Florida citizens from criminals and terrorist alike should not be abdicated but rather protected in our Constitution. Florida voters are being asked to protect their right to vote, our veterans, and our citizens,” Ashley said. “I wholeheartedly support that.”