Miami-Dade Legislative Item
File Number: 063407
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File Number: 063407 File Type: Ordinance Status: Adopted
Version: 0 Reference: 06-167 Control: Board of County Commissioners
File Name: INITIATIVE, REFERENDUM AND RECALL PETITIONS Introduced: 11/29/2006
Requester: NONE Cost: Final Action: 11/28/2006
Agenda Date: 11/28/2006 Agenda Item Number: 7A
Notes: THIS IS FINAL VERSION AS ADOPTED. ALSO SEE #063025 Title: ORDINANCE PROHIBITING ANY PERSON OR ENTITY FROM INTENTIONALLY MAKING FALSE STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE CONTENTS OR EFFECT OF ANY PETITION FOR INITIATIVE, REFERENDUM, OR RECALL TO ANY PERSON WHO IS REQUESTED TO SIGN ANY SUCH PETITION OR WHO MAKES AN INQUIRY REGARDING ANY SUCH PETITION; AMENDING SECTION 12-23 OF THE CODE OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA; PROVIDING SEVERABILITY, INCLUSION IN THE CODE, PENALTY, AND AN EFFECTIVE DATE [SEE ORIGINAL ITEM UNDER FILE NO. 063407]
Indexes: INITIATIVE PETITION
  REFERENDUM
Sponsors: Jose "Pepe" Diaz, Prime Sponsor
  Bruno A. Barreiro, Co-Sponsor
  Natacha Seijas, Co-Sponsor
Sunset Provision: No Effective Date: Expiration Date:
Registered Lobbyist: None Listed


Legislative History

Acting Body Date Agenda Item Action Sent To Due Date Returned Pass/Fail

Mayor 12/6/2006 Vetoed 12/6/2006
REPORT: Mayor Alvarez presented a Veto Message to the Clerk of the Board's Office on December 6, 2006.

County Attorney 11/29/2006 Assigned Jeffrey P. Ehrlich

Board of County Commissioners 11/28/2006 7A Amended Adopted as amended P
REPORT: County Attorney Murray Greenberg read the foregoing proposed ordinance into the record. Commissioner Sorenson requested that any individuals present today concerning the foregoing ordinance be allowed to speak since they were not given an opportunity to be heard at the last meeting. In response to Chairman Martinez’ comment that the Community Outreach, Safety and Healthcare Administration Committee (COSHA) passed a 5-0 vote on October 18th, 2005 to forward this ordinance to the BCC with a favorable recommendation, Commissioner Sorenson noted the public hearing, orginally scheduled before the Internal Management and Fiscal Responsibility Committee (IMFRC), was later changed to the COSHA Committee without proper notice. Chairman Martinez opened the public hearing on the foregoing proposed ordinance and the following person(s) appeared: 1. Ms. Mary Williams, 10134 SW 78th Court, appeared before the Board and requested clarification on the terms “favorable recommendation” and “initiative.” She asked if petitions supporting or opposing zoning requests were included in this ordinance. Ms. Williams expressed concern with requirements placed on the signature gathering process and spoke in opposition to this ordinance because it challenged the democratic process and could have a chilling effect on individuals gathering signatures who could be fined for not understanding this process. Following comments by County Attorney Murray Greenberg and Chairman Martinez, Commissioner Sorenson question whether anything existed in the Code to regulate political speech of circulators. County Attorney Greenberg noted the Code did not regulate political speech; however, the County had the authority to try to prevent fraudulent situations when individuals gathered signatures for initiatives. Commissioner Sorenson expressed concern officials having to decide issues on what was misleading in the political speech of an initiative. County Attorney Greenberg advised that pursuant to the foregoing ordinance, it would be necessary to prove someone intentionally made a false statement. He noted this issue was discussed with Commissioner Diaz who felt this ordinance was appropriate, though he agreed there was wide latitude regarding First Amendment rights. Commissioner Sorenson expressed concern that the threat of enforcement could limit free speech. She stated she felt it was necessary to protect democracy and free speech at all costs and noted she preferred to err on the side of democracy rather than deter it. She pointed out that people reading the petition, could decide whether or not to sign it regardless of what was represented by the person circulating the petition. She acknowledged the ordinance was well intended but strongly opposed it because of its consequences in its application. Chairman Martinez expressed concern with the elderly signing a petition they did not understand. In response to Commissioner Sosa’s request for clarification of the amended ordinance discussed at committee, Assistant County Attorney Jeff Ehrlich clarified the language in this ordinance was applicable to any person who intentionally made a false statement regarding the contents of a petition. Commissioner Gimenez acknowledged the intent of this ordinance and agreed that problems existed with the way petitions were circulated in the County, especially by individuals with incentives to be paid per signature. He spoke in opposition to this ordinance because of its unintended consequences and stated he felt the person signing the petition had the responsibility to know what they were signing. Commissioner Heyman offered an amendment to add the following language handwritten page 4, Section (4) A: “…for which there was reliance by the signer.” Assistant County Attorney Jeff Ehrlich noted the language in the proposed amendment was too narrow and would make it difficult to enforce the ordinance because it meant a violation of this ordinance would only occur if a false statement caused someone to sign the petition they otherwise would not sign. Chairman Martinez accepted the proposed amendment offered by Commissioner Heyman. Vice Chairman Moss spoke in support of this ordinance because he felt it was more about false speech than free speech. He noted the petition gathering process needed to be regulated better and this was a way to ensure individuals gathering signatures were truthful. He pointed out this ordinance dealt with initiative petitions, recalls and referendums, and would not impede local community groups from gathering petition signatures for zoning or related issues. He also noted this ordinance would provide the Commission with a tool to hold accountable those individuals gathering petition signatures. Commissioner Jordan noted she supported the foregoing ordinance. She pointed out this ordinance would not affect those persons who believed they provided correct information but would regulate those persons who intentionally gave false information. Commissioner Edmonson expressed concern with individuals gathering signatures who might be of low income, and who may not understand the process. She noted she supported the ordinance but hoped better training would be provided to individuals gathering signatures. Chairman Martinez suggested a provision be included in the Election Department Administrative Procedures that requires any person or entity who receives a petition package, to receive a copy of the this ordinance and sign off on it that they read and understood its contents and the consequences of non-compliance. Mr. Lester Solo, Director, Elections Department, advised that his Department would provide a copy of this ordinance along with a handout of Miami-Dade Code, Section 12-23, which addressed all responsibilities of petition gathering. Commissioner Diaz concurred with the suggestion of Chairman Martinez and noted he supported this ordinance wholeheartedly. He read into the record, a letter from the State Attorney’s Office to the Clerk of Circuit Courts, Harvey Ruvin, addressing the issues and investigation relating to the petition for recall of Commissioner Natacha Seijas. Hearing no further discussion, the Board proceeded to vote on the forgoing ordinance as amended to add the following language to handwritten page 4, Section 12-23 (4) A: “…and who relies on such statement.” Commissioner Sorenson noted for the record, her reason for opposing this ordinance had to do with the serious consequences of it and that it was in no way related to the recall issue of Commissioner Seijas. Commissioner Gimenez noted for the record, his reason for opposing this ordinance was because he was uncomfortable with the method outlined in this ordinance and more comfortable with the method outlined in Agenda Item 7B, which he believed would resolve the issue. (Note: Pursuant to Rule 8.01 of the County's Rules of Procedures, Mayor Alvarez vetoed the foregoing ordinance on December 6, 2006. At the Board's meeting of December 19th, 2006, the Mayor's Veto was overridden - See Agenda Item 2A1; Legislative file 063554 from the meeting of December 19th, 2006)

Legislative Text


TITLE
ORDINANCE PROHIBITING ANY PERSON OR ENTITY FROM INTENTIONALLY MAKING FALSE STATEMENTS CONCERNING THE CONTENTS OR EFFECT OF ANY PETITION FOR INITIATIVE, REFERENDUM, OR RECALL TO ANY PERSON WHO IS REQUESTED TO SIGN ANY SUCH PETITION OR WHO MAKES AN INQUIRY REGARDING ANY SUCH PETITION; AMENDING SECTION 12-23 OF THE CODE OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA; PROVIDING SEVERABILITY, INCLUSION IN THE CODE, PENALTY, AND AN EFFECTIVE DATE

BODY
BE IT ORDAINED BY THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS OF MIAMI-DADE COUNTY, FLORIDA:
Section 1. Section 12-23 of the Code of Miami-Dade County, Florida, is hereby amended to read as follows:1
Sec. 12-23. Initiative, referendum and recall petitions-Verification of signatures; disqualification of noncomplying petitions >>; prohibition on improper signature gathering practices<<.

* * *

>>(4) Prohibited Signature Gathering Practices

A. It shall be unlawful for any person, entity, or elector intentionally to make or cause to be made any false statement concerning the contents or effect of any petition for initiative, referendum, or recall submitted pursuant to Article 7 of the Miami-Dade County Home Rule Charter to any person who is requested to sign any such petition or who makes an inquiry with reference to any such petition and who relies on such statement.

B. Any person, entity, or elector convicted of a violation of section 12-23(4)A of this Code shall be punished by a fine not to exceed five hundred dollars ($500.00) or by imprisonment in the County Jail not more than sixty (60) days, or by both such fine and imprisonment.<<

Section 2. If any section, subsection, sentence, clause or provision of this ordinance is held invalid, the remainder of this ordinance shall not be affected by such invalidity.
Section 3. It is the intention of the Board of County Commissioners, and it is hereby ordained that the provisions of this ordinance, including any sunset provision, shall become and be made a part of the Code of Miami-Dade County, Florida. The sections of this ordinance may be renumbered or relettered to accomplish such intention, and the word "ordinance" may be changed to "section," "article," or other appropriate word.
Section 4. This ordinance shall become effective ten (10) days after the date of enactment unless vetoed by the Mayor, and if vetoed, shall become effective only upon an override by this Board.



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