Two bills that would offer voters the power to recall county commissioners and other county officers passed their second committee Monday.
HB 663, a bill that would place a constitutional amendment on the ballot expanding Florida’s recall law to include county officers in all Florida counties, passed the House Public Integrity and Elections Committee with only two dissenting votes. HB 1399, which lays out the recall process for county commissioners and would only come into effect if the ballot initiative is approved, also passed the committee.
But the amendment would significantly increase the number of officials at risk. “The Legislature may provide by general law for the recall of county officers and commissioners,” the text of the bill as proposed reads.
Under Florida law, “county officers” include each county’s Clerk of Courts, Property Appraiser, Sheriff, Supervisor of Elections and Tax Collector. If the legislation is passed, voters would have to collect signatures from 15% of a county’s registered voters to trigger a recall election.
Pace Rep. Jayer Williamson, the bill’s sponsor, said the legislation places the decision in the hands of citizens to decide whether they want the expansion.
“This is the ultimate home rule bill because it puts the power into the citizens that would vote on this, not the Legislature,” Williamson said.
While the legislation passed the committee, some speakers and lawmakers voiced concern that the scope of HB 1399 is too limited, as it only enacts the process for county commissioners.
Edward Labrador, senior legislative counsel for the Florida Association of Counties, said the bill should include all county officers since that is what the ballot initiative would ask.
“Let’s treat our local officials fairly, let’s include all of them and let’s give the people the right to recall those county officers, whether it is a Sheriff or a County Commissioner,” he said.
Democratic Rep. Susan Valdés said she wanted the change to include state officers like the Governor and Cabinet members.
“If we are gonna be doing constitutional changes this way, I believe it should be covering all types of elected officials,” she said.
In response, Williamson argued that since the sections of the constitution laying out the Governor and Cabinet roles are different than ones related to counties, other bills and ballot initiatives would be required to touch them.