For supporters of ‘home-rule’ style government, 2017 was a brutal year in Tallahassee.
That’s why in June the Florida League of Cities named Tampa City Councilman Mike Suarez — as well as more than 70 other municipal officials from around the state — as recipients of their 2017 Home Rule Hero Awards.
The League noted all were recognized for their “tireless efforts’ to advance the League’s legislative agenda and help protect the home rule authority of Florida’s cities during this year’s regular legislative session.
“We are doing things that are right for our citizens in our cities, and that what they are doing are wrong for our citizens in our cities,” said Suarez after being given the award at a ceremony at the Tampa City Council’s meeting on Thursday. “Without our voices, we will not be able to stop this kind of title wave power grab against our cities.”
Local lawmakers throughout the state have derided House Speaker Richard Corcoran and the entire GOP-led Legislature for attacking the concept of home rule over the past couple of years, which allows a city to establish its own form of government and enact ordinances, codes, plans, and resolutions without prior state approval.
Among the bills that drew the wrath of local lawmakers was Palm Bay Representative Randy Fine’s proposal to pre-empt all local business regulations unless authorized by state law.
Another huge issue that local lawmakers have lamented is a proposed constitutional amendment, headed for the November 2018 ballot, that would expand the state homestead property-tax exemption from $50,000 to $75,000. The change could cost cities, counties and special districts an estimated $752.7 million the first year and grow to $816.8 million by the fifth year, according to the Florida League of Cities.
Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn earlier this year blasted what he said was an “unprecedented attack” on cities, and Pinellas County state House Republican Kathleen Peters announced earlier this year that she would not run for reelection to her seat in 2018 and instead run for county commission, attributing her move in part on “an all-out assault on local governments and home rule.”
Corcoran doesn’t want to hear about local lawmakers complaining about losing tax revenues.
“The concept that you can give somebody a $25,000 homestead exemption and put in on the ballot, and the result is this: that local governments have only two choices — they have to raise taxes, or cut essential services that really benefit their local community, is absolute crap,” he said.