OKEECHOBEE – Local officials should be aware of bills currently under consideration in the Florida Legislature that could hurt home rule by the local governments, Okeechobee County Commissioner Kelly Owens explained at the March 25 meeting of the Okeechobee County Board of Commissioners.
Senate Bill 1924 takes local control away from the county during a local state of emergency, said Owens. “It makes county commission an easy target for people who feel their civil liberties have been violated.
“We as a local governing board know what our community wants and needs,” she said. “To remove us as their voice during those emergencies is the ultimate slap in the face to local government.”
Two other bills concern the election of members to school board. One would take away compensation for these positions. The other bill would set term limits for school board members.
“A lot of times we have trouble even getting people to run for those seats,” Owens said. She said serving on a school board involves spending quite a bit of time and the board members deserve some compensation.
She said if the rules for serving on a school board change, it’s just a matter of time before the state takes more authority away from other local government boards.
“If they start with one local governing board, they will move on to another and another,” she said. “We will end up with people with very specific personal agendas who are placed in those seats.”
She said she has been watching the concerted effort for the privatization of education. “You will have people apply for those positions who support that agenda,” Owens continued. “It is not good for the students.”
“We need to protect our local governing boards because we are the ones who know what is best for the people who live and work here,” she said.
Senate Bill 1924 “Emergency Management Powers of Political Subdivisions,” was introduced by Florida Senator Manny Diaz Jr. (REP) from Miami-Dade County. It has been sent to the Military, Veterans Affairs, Space and Domestic Security committees.
The bill’s description states: “Specifying that a political subdivision has the burden of proving the proper exercise of its police power in the issuance of certain emergency orders; authorizing the Governor or the Legislature to invalidate emergency measures issued by a political subdivision under specified conditions; providing for the automatic expiration of emergency orders issued by a political subdivision; authorizing the extension of such orders if certain conditions are met; prohibiting a political subdivision from issuing a subsequent order for the same emergency that is substantially similar to the expired order, etc.”
House of Representatives Bill 1461 would make school boards non compensated governing board units. Currently school board members are paid based on the population size of the school district. The average is around $35,995. The bill has been referred to the Education and Employment Committee. It was filed by Florida House of Representatives Member Sam Garrison of Fleming Island.
House of Representatives Bill 11 would set term limits for school board members. It is sponsored by Anthony Sabatini (REP) of Howie-in-the-Hills. This bill proposes an amendment to the state constitution. It has been referred to the Public Integrity and Elections Committee and the Education and Employment Committee.