After almost a year’s work, members of a volunteer group tasked with proposing changes to Pinellas’ charter are ready to take their suggestions to the public.
They’ve scheduled two hearings to give residents a chance to comment. The hearings are one of the last steps before the six proposed changes are put on the November ballot so voters can decide whether to adopt them. The county charter acts like a constitution, providing the framework under which Pinellas is governed.
The first hearing is scheduled for 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at the St. Petersburg City Hall, 175 Fifth St. N. The second is planned for 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. June 15 at the Pinellas County Courthouse, 315 Court St., Clearwater.
The proposed amendments:
- Under current law, a citizen-based drive to put a charter amendment on the ballot requires that petitions be signed by 10 percent of the registered voters in Pinellas. The petitioners have 180 days to gather the signatures. The suggested change would require only 8 percent of the voters to sign the petitions and would give the petitioners more time — 240 days — to gather the signatures.
- The second proposal would require the Pinellas County auditor to evaluate the potential financial cost to voters of any charter change. That evaluation would be placed on the ballot after the summary of the proposal. This would be a new addition to the charter. There is no such requirement currently.
- This proposal would also add a new section to the charter. The proposal would create a county redistricting board that would meet every 10 years after the census to recommend the ways new district lines for county commissioners should be drawn. The recommendations would go to the county commission.
- Under the current charter, the county attorney is hired, evaluated and fired by the seven county commissioners. Under the proposal, the county attorney would be hired, fired and evaluated by the seven county commissioners and the Pinellas County sheriff, tax collector, clerk of court, property appraiser and supervisor of elections.
- The current charter provides that nine members of the charter review commission should be appointed by the Pinellas County Commission from the county at large. The proposal would require that seven of those would have to live in the commissioner’s district. The other two would be selected at large from the county.
- This amendment would “clean up” or take out any provisions that have been found to be unconstitutional, remove references to organizations that no longer exist and revise references to make them consistent with Florida statutes.