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Bill limiting local tax referendums passes House committee

Legislation that forces local governments to hold sales tax referendum only on the date of a primary or general election was approved by a House committee in Tallahassee.

Sponsored by Spring Hill Republican Blaise Ingoglia, the bill (HB 317) is similar to other proposals to come before the Legislature in recent years but failed to make it to the governor’s desk.

An amendment, introduced by Ingoglia and passed Wednesday by the House Local, Federal and Veteran Affairs Subcommittee, removes the requirement that such a measure needed a county commission supermajority before it goes to voters.

If the measure is put on a primary ballot, the bill also requires 60 percent approval from voters. If on the general election ballot, it only needs a simple majority.

“What’s wrong with how they’re doing it right now?” asked Brian Pitts, the only member of the public to comment on the legislation. “What’s the problem? This bill needs to go nowhere.”

Pitts’ remark received pushback from Boynton Beach Democrat Joseph Abruzzo, who said there have been problems with such referendums in the past.

“I think that expanding it to make sure that more of the voters have a say on whether a major increase, specifically on a sales tax occurs, is the right thing to do,” Abruzzo said.

Ingoglia also said that there have been abuses by local governments have made “political” decisions in order to get a sales tax passed.

“Many times they’ll make the political decision to put it on a special election ballot,” he said. “Special election ballots have notoriously low turnout, sometimes twenty, twenty-two, twenty-five percent.”

Ingoglia also criticized the placement of such a tax on a presidential primary election, which, depending on the county in Florida, could result in a presidential candidate running unopposed — another way to depress voter turnout.

“If we’re going ask ourselves to tax ourselves,” Ingoglia said, “let’s have the maximum voter participation possible.”

The committee approved the bill 12-2.

Written By

Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served five years as political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. Mitch also was assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley and is a San Francisco native who has lived in Tampa since 2000. Mitch can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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