Jeff Brandes’ local tax referendum measure breezes through first committee

Brandes’ bill would require counties to place tax increase referendums only a general election ballot.

A bill seeking to limit when local governments can ask voters to raise taxes is moving forward in the Senate.

The Committee on Ethics and Elections approved as favorable Jeff Brandes’ local tax referendums during a committee hearing Wednesday.

Brandes’ bill (SB 336) would require counties to place tax increase referendums only a general election ballot. Currently, counties are not limited on such tax initiatives and can put them before voters in special elections.

Brandes filed the same bill last year, but it died in the Senate. He presented it again this year saying the measure would stop counties from raising taxes on residents during special elections that have “ridiculously low turnout.” He noted that effectively allows a very small number of constituents to approve taxes on the entire county population.

The measure passed the committee without debate. The bill heads next to the Finance and Tax and then Rules committees.

While there hasn’t been much debate in the Legislature so far, there are critics. Those who oppose the measure see it as an attack on home rule that limits local authority to self-governance. Critics also worry local sales tax referendums issues could get lost on longer General Election ballots.

In a previous interview with Florida Politics, Brandes acknowledged there would be some opposition to his bill based on home rule concerns, but said this measure is different.

“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.

The measure drops the portion of the state statute in which counties can place referendums 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.”

Indian Rocks Republican Nick DeCeglie is sponsoring a similar bill (HB 5) in the House. That measure has not yet been assigned to a committee.

Janelle Irwin Taylor

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in Tampa Bay since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as senior reporter for WMNF News. Janelle has a lust for politics and policy. When she’s not bringing you the day’s news, you might find Janelle enjoying nature with her husband, children and two dogs. You can reach Janelle at [email protected].


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