Let Volusia Vote – Charter Amendment Talking Points
Because of the billions of dollars to be made through giving away our beach access this issue has become very contentious and the facts have become so snarled that fiction can become truth.
In the easiest way possible, here are the facts of how and why we can do this. Special interests, candidates, and current office holders should pay close attention since many are spreading incorrect information.
Can an issue be put on the ballot amending the Volusia County Charter to require voter approval before removing beach access?
Answer: Yes. There is no need to debate… it can be put on the ballot. You can even put no dogs or cats allowed in Volusia County on the ballot. Ballot issues are permissible after they are submitted in accordance with county rules which require signatures from a specific number of registered voters or by movement of the county council. Either way, a ballot initiative can be put to a vote.
Can our ballot initiative for the referendum be challenged in the courts?
Answer: Yes. Anything can be challenged in the courts these days but only the County Council can challenge a Charter Amendment prior to it going on the ballot. The first test is in a term called “standing in the court”. Basically this means does the person making the argument have a legal position to do so. In most instances they would but a Charter Amendment is not most instances. The second test is in the validity of the argument. This is where it gets complicated and is why the ballot initiative has to be worded properly. Given that it is worded properly and that the county elections requirements have been met it will then move to a vote of the people.
Once passed, can our new amendment to the County Charter be again challenged in court?
Answer: Yes. It can be challenged by anyone after the voters approve it. The first test in a challenge is its legal authority in relationship to the overall power of the County Charter. The next and most obvious challenge comes from an argument that the State Statutes gives authority to the County Council on this matter. This is 100% correct. This is where it gets a bit confusing. When you read a state statute, city, or county ordinance, you will see a section called “definitions”. A word used in a statute may have a general meaning, but for purposes of the statute it may be different. In this case, the Statute reads, “governing body” and our charter says the governing body is the Volusia County Council. So again, 100% correct. But where we prevail on any challenge in this area is that our amendment does not remove their authority as prescribed by the State Statute. The State Statute preserves decision authority to the local government such that the state government is not to intervene. It does not prohibit the people from participating in the decisions. Our amendment doesn't say County Council you can no longer make that decision or pass / fail your motions regarding beach access. What our amendment says is that the voters must grant you permission before they become final. Therein lies the validity our Amendment has.
Keep in mind there are two things about government you don’t want to confuse, authority and power.
Authority to act by any governing body is prescribed for in law through charters, constitutions, and statutes. The power to use that authority is held by the people. The people grant the power through the same mechanisms, our Charters and Constitutions. And as we all know, those can be amended.
This issue is very complicated, but also very simple.
So don’t be scared off or taken by surprise when someone says it will fail. It will be written correctly and with the community's help the required number of signatures will be obtained. Best of all, once the Amendment is passed it is the responsibility of the county government to defend any lawsuits or actions against the Amendment. They, as a body, cannot challenge it at that point, as it will then be law.
So there you have it.
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