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Jeff Brandes: Limit tax referenda to general elections

He hopes to include more voters in tax hike decisions

State Sen. Jeff Brandes is again sponsoring a bill that would require counties to place tax increase referenda only on a general election ballot.

Currently, counties are not limited on such tax initiatives and can place them before voters in special elections.

“It stops cities and counties from hosting Special Elections with a ridiculously low turnout where a small [number] of constituents will decide on a tax increase on all the taxpayers,” Brandes said of the bill (SB 336).

“General elections get a majority of voters who are able to vote whether their taxes are raised.”

Brandes filed a similar bill last year that made it to the Senate floor, but was ultimately not approved. Brandes said despite the bill’s failure last year, it had broad support and expects that to be the same this year.

The measure deletes the portion of the state statute in which counties can place referenda on the ballot that says “at a time to be set at the discretion of the governing body” and replaces it with “in a referendum held at a General Election.”

While Brandes anticipates “broad support” some local elected officials might see the effort as another attempt at limiting local governance known as “home rule.” Brandes expects the critique but said this effort isn’t the same.

“It’s different because, when it comes to raising taxes, it should be done in broad daylight, not in the cover of darkness during a special election,” he said.

“When we see abuses, you’ve got to come in and step in and try to address them. I think this just creates a clear level across the state.”

Brandes filed the bill Tuesday. It does not yet have a companion in the Florida House. Spring Hill-area Rep. Blaise Ingoglia sponsored the measure last year in the House.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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