A Home Rule County Charter
In July 1983, the Board of County Commissioners adopted an ordinance proposing a home rule charter for the county and voters approved the ordinance in a countywide referendum held in September 1983.
History of the County Charter
Attempts to institute home rule government in Hillsborough County dates back to the 1950s, but it took years of study, two unsuccessful referenda on consolidation charters, and involvement by the local legislative delegation, county residents, and the Board of County Commissioners before Hillsborough County finally changed its form of government through a home rule charter.
The efforts culminated in July 1983, when the Board of County Commissioners adopted an ordinance proposing a home rule charter for the county and voters approved the ordinance in a countywide referendum held in September 1983.
Because the charter provided for a change in the elected officials who would govern the county - from five county commissioners elected at-large to seven commissioners, with four to be elected from single-member districts and three to be elected countywide - the county was required to submit the plan to the U.S. Attorney General for preclearance under the Voting Rights Act. Implementation of the charter, set for November 1984, was delayed when the U. S. Attorney General officially lodged objections shortly before a scheduled primary election.
Additionally, plaintiffs in a then-pending lawsuit against the county and City of Tampa in federal district court sought to enjoin the election of county commissioners because the 4-3 plan of four single-member districts and three at-large districts had not received preclearance. The district court granted the injunction and prohibited the election of county commissioners.
However, the county asked the Attorney General to reconsider his objections to the charter's election plan.
Upon reconsideration of the charter and its 4-3 election plan, the Attorney General withdrew his objections. The district court subsequently withdrew its bar to the election of commissioners, clearing the way for elections to be held. The first commissioners elected under the charter took office and charter government went into effect on May 28, 1985.
In August 2010, county commissioners adopted Hillsborough County Ordinance 10-12 proposing an amendment to the charter. This amendment redrafted Section 4.10 of the County Charter to:
- Change qualifications
- Delete references to budget analyst
- Establish an audit committee
- Prohibit the county internal auditor from engaging in political activity
- Rename the internal performance auditor
- Require the Board of County Commissioners to annually give direction to the County Internal Auditor regarding the conduct of internal audits
This amendment was approved by the voters on November 2, 2010, and became effective upon adoption.
On November 2, 2010, voters approved amending Section 4.06 of the charter to require an additional public meeting to consider proposed new district boundaries if the board of county commissioners desire to make substantial changes to boundaries that were initially advertised and considered.
Charter at a glance
- Responsibilities of the executive branch (county administrator) and legislative branch (County Commission) are specified, and neither branch is to exercise powers pertaining to the other branch
- There are seven members of the County Commission; four are from single-member districts, and three are elected countywide. Every elector of the county may vote for a majority of the commissioners: The commissioner representing the elector's district and three commissioners elected at large
- Terms of county commissioners are staggered
- The charter does not affect any court, constitutional officer, district school board, or any municipality
- Special laws enacted by the Florida legislature may be effective in Hillsborough County without approval by county electors if they relate to the following: Civil service, aviation, the port, sports, transportation, hospitals, planning, environment, solid waste management, consumer affairs, resource recovery, criminal justice, historic preservation, and the arts
- The county attorney is to be hired and fired by the County Commission
- There are provisions for recall of elected officials
- There is a provision for a Charter Review Board to be appointed by the County Commission two years after charter implementation and every five years thereafter. The Charter Review Board is empowered to conduct a study of county government and propose amendments to the charter
- Amendments also may be proposed by the County Commission by ordinance adopted by five commissioners, or by initiative
- No amendment may be effective unless it is approved by a majority vote of the electors of the county