Q&A – Florida’s Home Rule And How It Works

The red and white Florida flag

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Today’s entry: We're all familiar with the 10th Amendment in general (The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.)

I was politely discussing with Commissioner Josh Simmons of Coral Springs on Twitter about natural rights and federal vs state power. He insisted there is a similar relationship, intrinsically, between Tallahassee and the counties and cities. Ie, the state capital functions like the federal government (limited enumerated power) and the counties/cities like the (state or the people with) broad power.

I had never heard this theory-- but I don't think it's correct, either in statute or by logical deduction. Have you ever covered this?

Bottom Line: The concept you’re discussing with Commissioner Simmons is what’s known as home rule. There are similarities to the Tenth Amendment to the US Constitution along with many differences. Notably, the U.S. Constitution provides no guidance as to the authority of local governments. In other words, there are no federally protected rights or authority granted for any local government excluding the District of Columbia. Local authority within states comes exclusively via what’s granted by states. 

If you ever hear the term “home rule” reported or discussed by local officials, it’s not just a rhetorical argument advanced by local governments when they’re concerned about overreach by the state. It’s constitutional law in Florida. Prior to 1968 local governments were allowed to create ordinances/policies without authorization from the state, however, if at any point the state disapproved of the local policy, state officials retained the authority to overrule local decisions. That eventually brought about the 1968 Constitution Revision Committee’s “Home Rule” Constitutional amendment which was passed by voters. The amendment officially granted local governments defined authority independent of the state. 

However, like many constitutional amendments, additional action to clarify details was needed by the state legislature. After years of legal battles and differences of opinion within the legislature, the Home Rules Power Act was enacted in 1973. The Act provided this additional defined authority: Municipalities shall have governmental, corporate and proprietary powers to enable them to conduct municipal government, perform municipal functions and render municipal services, and may exercise power for municipal purposes except as otherwise provided by law.

The only defined exclusion from local rights was/is taxation. The state retains sole authority over changes in taxing authority. Once defined the proliferation of municipalities along with Florida's growing population ensued. In addition to Florida’s 67 counties, there are now 412 municipal governments in Florida. So back to your discussion with your city commissioner. He’s right that there are similarities between the tenth amendment to the US Constitution and Florida’s Home Rule Amendment. There are also vast differences. On a relative basis states retain more rights via the 10th Amendment than local governments do via Florida’s Home Rule Amendment. Examples include the ability for states to retain their own military and taxing authority. 

Each day I feature a listener question sent by one of these methods. 

Email: brianmudd@iheartmedia.com

Gettr, Parler & Twitter: @brianmuddradio 

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