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Florida Senate joins opposition to Hillsborough’s All For Transportation sales tax

Both Legislative bodies are urging the Florida Supreme Court to overturn the tax.

The Florida Senate is joining opposition to the All For Transportation sales tax in Hillsborough County. The legislative body filed a notice with the Florida Supreme Court that it was joining another brief filed last week by the Florida House supporting a legal challenge seeking to overturn the tax.

In that brief, House general counsel Adam Tanenbaum wrote urging the Florida Supreme Court to invalidate the sales tax in its entirety. 

Hillsborough County voters overwhelmingly approved the All For Transportation referendum last November that levied a 1 percent sales tax to fund sweeping improvements to the county’s transportation network including a variety of both road and transit projects. 

Hillsborough County Commissioner Stacy White and later Hillsborough resident Robert Emerson challenged the tax both arguing it violated superseding state law governing how sales tax revenue expenditures could be determined. 

A judge upheld the tax but struck some provisions of the new charter including spending allocations.

The House brief argues the tax usurps legislative authority to oversee how sales surtax is levied. 

“The House has an interest in preserving this legislative prerogative to strictly control non-ad valorem taxation,” Tanenbaum wrote. “Hillsborough County’s effort at levying a sales surtax without strictly complying with the Legislature’s requirements for doing so, and the trial court’s application of the severability doctrine to preserve a portion of an otherwise unconstitutional levy, threatens to diminish the Legislature’s exclusive constitutional power regarding non-ad valorem taxation.”

Tanenbaum also argued the All For Transportation referendum illegally included language directing specific uses for revenue, an authority that should be reserved for the Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners or the Florida Legislature. 

“In fact, for this particular surtax, the Legislature charges the county commission, and no other person or entity, to decide how the tax proceeds will be spent across several statutorily enumerated categories of transportation projects. The county’s failure to put a “clean” levy question to the voters renders the proposed surtax invalid,” he wrote.

Like the House brief, the Senate did not vote to support the appeal. The decision instead came from Senate President Bill Galvano.

“This is just another example of Tallahassee thinking it knows better than the voters they are sent there to represent. Elected leaders at every level of government should respect our overwhelming call for change to improve the transportation crisis in Hillsborough County and support the investment voters are making to resolve the crippling backlog of road projects and safety improvements we face,” said All For Transportation Chair Tyler Hudson. “At the end of the day, this deliberate effort to silence the voters only further erodes the public’s confidence in their elected leaders.”

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 Patch.com 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.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Edward Freeman

    September 9, 2019 at 8:15 pm

    This is full on nuts. Republicans on Florida can absolutely not stand it when voters take action themselves and use the power that is fully vested in them in the first place. No matter the subject, Republicans go ballistic at any exercise of democracy and especially direct democracy because they know that their ideas can not survive in a free marketplace of ideas. In recent decades Republican Governors and the Republican controlled Legislature have taken to just flat out ignoring the Florida Constitution when citizens amend it through the citizens initiatives process, which was originally developed as a means for citizens to go around obstinate legislators who refused to work in the public’s interest. On issues ranging from fast trains, to conservation land numerous times, to medical marijuana to requiring fair and un-gerrymandered Legislative and Congressional districts Republicans has repeatedly thumbed their noses and Florida voters and said in effect “screw you, we know better than you do and we aren’t listening to you or following the law”. If you or I flaunted the law like this we would be sent to prison, they should be. The citizen group that sponsored the Fair Districts amendment had to file or defend 13 separate lawsuits before finally getting some of what the law required from the courts. Now these self important charlatans have gone a step further and are trying to undue democracy on the local level, because they are cravenly opposed to efficient roads and transit? None of the clowns should ever received one vote for anyone who believes in democracy ever again.

  2. Cynthia Jennings

    September 10, 2019 at 11:33 am

    We nominated and elected members of the House and Senate to represent the voters wants and needs. If we were, supposedly, smart enough to put them into power, why then, are we not smart enough to make an informed decision on this tax. Overwhelmingly, citizens of Hillsborough County voted for this tax and did so with full and complete knowledge of the contents of the referendum. Unlike many referenda of the past, this one was not written inside-out, but in plain, easy to understand language. I live in South Shore, an area that is not going to see a great deal of benefit from this tax in the near future. However, the overall usage of the tax for transit will, in the long run, work to repair and replace the infrastructure burdens for new developments that the legislature placed on us in 2011 when they voted to not require the developers to pay for the systems and services for the number of homes they built. Now, the legislature wants to say that this tax, again, voted for overwhelming, is not legal. Meanwhile, the roads in Hillsborough County are deteriorating, the sewers and wastewater systems are crumbling, the transit system is so far behind the times, it’s a wonder the buses can even be on the road. Shame on them for thinking that they and their egos – from the county level to the state level – are more important than the will of the people.

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