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Municipal elections bill dies in Senate

A bill that would have changed election dates for municipal offices died in the closing days of the 2018 Legislative Session.

HB 7037, sponsored by Lehigh Acres Republican Rep. Matt Caldwell, aimed to narrow the choices for when municipal governments could set elections to either the third Tuesday in March, or the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, when general elections are held.

If elections require a runoff, Caldwell’s proposal would have required the initial election to be held 10 weeks earlier and the runoff to be held on the March or November date.

The bill also contained a provision that would have extended terms for municipal officeholders in order for municipalities to better cope with the change.

HB 7037 would have impacted dozens of cities that hold elections outside of those dates, and was sharply opposed by the Florida League of Cities on the grounds that it preempts local governments.

Proponents of the bill argued that holding municipal elections in tandem with the general election in even-numbered years would lead to higher turnout in municipal races, but the League disagreed in an action alert on the bill.

“There is no data to support that higher voter turnout in November elections will increase voter participation in municipal elections. Municipal candidates will be competing for voter and media attention with federal, state and county candidates and issues,” the group said.

“For over half of cities that provide for runoff elections, municipal campaigns [would] be in full swing during summer and winter holidays – when voters are highly distracted or absent, and media access exceedingly expensive.”

HB 7037 cleared the House on a party-line vote and was sent to the Senate, which amended it to reduce the 10-weeks-out runoff date for March elections to seven weeks, but the chamber didn’t vote on the amended bill.

Written By

Drew Wilson covers legislative campaigns and fundraising for Florida Politics. He is a former editor at The Independent Florida Alligator and business correspondent at The Hollywood Reporter. Wilson, a University of Florida alumnus, covered the state economy and Legislature for LobbyTools and The Florida Current prior to joining Florida Politics.

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