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LGBT issues, recall procedures, nonpartisan elections slated for next Pinellas charter review meeting

in The Bay and the 'Burg/Top Headlines by

It’s looking like members of Pinellas County’s charter review commission will welcome in the new year with a human rights discussion.

On the January 6 meeting agenda is the matter of amending language to the topic’s section (2.02) of the Pinellas County Charter – basically, the county’s constitution – to say “gender and sexual orientation,” rather than just “sex.”

The current version of this portion of the charter reads as follows:

The county shall establish provisions, pursuant to state and federal law, for protection of human rights from discrimination based upon religion, political affiliation, race, color, age, sex, or national origin by providing and ensuring equal rights and opportunities for all people of Pinellas County.”

Simply put, the amendment would allow more human rights protection for members of the LGBT community.

Pinellas County’s Clerk of the Circuit Court, Ken Burke, who’s also a member of the charter review commission, expressed concern over the issue being so big that it distracts voters from the other issues which might end up on the ballot.

So far, the 13-member commission – primarily appointed by county commissioners – have just agreed to discuss the topic, and nothing more.

As with all changes to the charter, should commissioners decide to go forward with the amendment – they have until July to decide – it would then go on the ballot for a vote.

Pinellas’ political recall policy – a procedure by which voters can remove an elected official from office through a direct vote before their term has expired – will also be on the review commission’s next agenda.

According to pinellascounty.org, Pinellas is one of only two charter counties that are “silent” about their recall provisions. Meanwhile, the other 18 charter counties examined in the said research were marked as “yes” to having countywide recall provisions.

Whether or not to change the election of constitutional officers in Pinellas to nonpartisan elections will be up for discussion at the next meeting as well.

Constitutional officers include the state attorney, sheriff, clerk of the circuit court, tax collector, property appraiser, supervisor of elections, and the public defender.

Like each of the three soon-to-be discussed issues on the county commission’s next agenda, research was conducted on the topic after its last meeting, as, in order for a topic to be presented to the board for consideration, it first needs to be backed by at least two commissioners who think the topic is worth researching.

The next charter review commission meeting will be 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 6.

Devon Crumpacker is a Tampa Bay based writer and reporter for Extensive Enterprises Media. He primarily covers Pinellas County politics for SaintPetersblog.com, but also makes time to write the occasional bar review for FloridaBarTab.com. He lives in St. Petersburg with his fiance, Sydney. To contact, e-mail devon@floridapolitics.com, or visit his Twitter page @DevonCrumpacker.

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