Home Rule In Florida: A Critical Appraisal

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Stetson Law Review


Ordered liberty is the hallmark of American democracy. Since government derives its just powers from the consent of the governed, it follows that the government closest to the people is the one most responsive to their will. The fundamental notion that the citizens of a municipality or other political subdivision should make decisions in matters of genuine local concern, and select their own local officials, finds its natural expression in the concept of the home rule.' In a growing majority of states, a trend has developed in judicial interpretation of state law that favors the grant of powers not exclusively reserved by the state to units of local government. In addition, there has been a parallel trend toward liberal construction of constitutional home rule provisions. Home rule does not mean complete local autonomy; rather it denotes a broad empowerment of local authorities to make and enforce rules in matters of genuine local concern. It does not, in and of itself, bar state legislative intervention into local affairs. Home rule shifts the locus of decisionmaking power back to those in the best position to assess those needs, freeing the state legislature to concentrate on the issues that have a genuine statewide impact. It is a practical response to persistent increases in the demand for fundamental services such as water, sewage, transportation, zoning, and police and fire protection, precipitated by steadily increasing populations- accentuated in Florida as a consequence of the virtual one-way street of migration from the North to the South. The implementation and critical assessment of local home rule in Florida is the focus of this Article. Part I of this five-part analysis is a brief overview of the constitutional development and history of local government in Florida since its acquisition by the United States from the King of Spain in July 1821. Part II focuses on an examination of the Dade County Home Rule Charter Amendment and the constitutional amendment enabling the consolidation of the governments of the City of Jacksonville and Duval County, along with the respective charters enacted pursuant to those special constitutional amendments. Since Dade and Duval may be taken to represent different approaches to local government, their comparison and contrast will produce models that may serve as points of reference in part III. Part III is an analysis of the ten county charters that have sprung into existence since the revision of the Florida Constitution in 1968, which considerably enlarged the potential for preferential constitutional and statutory treatment available to charter counties. Part IV is a synopsis and critical analysis of the charter form of local government as implemented in Florida, taking into account the home rule powers of municipalities and their relation to county home rule powers. Part V will conclude with some suggestions respecting the appropriate roles for municipal, county, and state governments in their shared mission to ensure continued, well-managed growth and prosperity for Florida into the twenty-first century.

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Publication Date

Summer 1990