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Proposal would require local tax referendums to be held during general elections

A sign reads "vote here" at the Palm Beach County Library's main branch in West Palm Beach.
Wilkine Brutus
A sign reads "vote here" at the Palm Beach County Library's main branch in West Palm Beach.

Local tax referendums would have to be held during general elections, when more voters typically go to the polls, under a measure backed Monday in the House.

The Ways & Means Committee unanimously approved a bill (HB 777), filed by Rep. Will Robinson, R-Bradenton, that would prohibit a variety of types of tax referendums from being held in special, local or primary elections.

“I think it’s bad policy either way, whether or not you are trying to defeat something or you are trying to get something approved,” Robinson said. “It should be in front of the maximum number of voters.”

Robinson noted that the 2020 general election, which featured a U.S. presidential contest, attracted nearly 80% of Florida’s voters, while recent special elections on school-tax rates drew under 25% in Manatee and Sarasota counties.

Lawmakers in 2018 required local referendums involving sales taxes to be on general election ballots. The proposed change would affect tourist-development taxes, children’s services independent special district taxes, county and municipal tax rates, local fuel taxes and school district tax rates.

The bill would need approval from the State Affairs Committee before it could go to the full House.

An identical proposal (SB 1194) has cleared one Senate committee and needs approval from the Finance and Tax, and Appropriations committees.