Alachua County BOCC reform bill advances

The first of three legislative committees passed a bill on Wednesday that could potentially change the way citizens vote for the Alachua County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC).

“The purpose of this bill is to call for a referendum,” said state Rep. Chuck Clemons, R-District 21, “To to decide if the voters of Alachua County would like to elect their county commissioners either the way they do now, which is county wide, or if they would like to have a more local, more representative of the people, and elect them on a district-by-district basis.” 

The original proposal, which Clemons unveiled in December, called for an expansion of the BOCC from its current five seats to seven seats. Five of the seats would be voted on by district, while voters across the county would have voted on the two at-large seats. 

But before the House Local Administration and Veterans Affairs Subcommittee voted on the bill, Clemons amended it to eliminate the at-large seats.

“We’ve heard from voters and electors across the county [and] they don’t want to expand the county commission at all,” Clemons told the committee.

Clemons, a former county commissioner, said the bill is needed because of disgruntled voters in the county who do not feel like they are well represented. 

“If you represent an area and your garbage didn’t get picked up, you call your local representative and work with them to get it picked up,” Clements said. “If they didn’t pick it up, you’d know who to hold accountable. The way it is in Alachua County, like in a lot of counties, everybody votes for everybody, so it’s very hard—according to some voters—for them to hold their county commissioners accountable, because four-fifths of the county votes for their commissioner.”

Rep. Chuck Clemons

At a special BOCC meeting on Tuesday, Commissioner Ken Cornell vowed to fight the bill, HB 1493. The Public Integrity & Elections Committee will next review the bill, followed by the State Affairs Committee.

At a special meeting in December, the BOCC discussed Clemons’ then-proposed bill and the impact it would potentially have on Alachua County.

In a Dec. 6 letter to Republican state Sen. Keith Perry, then-BOCC Chair Ken Cornell said the bill is “a political assault on the Alachua County Home-Rule Charter and our citizens. The bill seeks to create a larger local government that would cost the taxpayers more money and reduce each citizen’s representation and voice.”

On Wednesday Cornell reported that he is prepared, “To go up [to Tallahassee] if it gets scheduled.”

Editor’s note: This story has been updated to include Clemons’ amendment and comments at the committee hearing.

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