October 15, 1980
IN RE: March 9, 1976 Referendum -- Constitutional Amendment
on Water Management District Levies
I hope the following will be of some help to you in discussions
of the March 9, 1976, referendum in which approximate 55% of
Floridians who voted adopted the Constitutional Amendment
establishing water management district levies at a maximum of
1 mill. I am attaching the following:
Computer Book History of JR1061 (which authorized the
Copies of Journal entries in re JR1061
Photocopies of statewide vote on the WMD millage question
and other pertinent Constitutional Amendments prior to
I am also enclosing for your information, as backup material, the
vote tallies from the Secretary of State's office in all of the
elections that I have cited as comparative to the March 9, 1976,
water management district constitutional amendments election.
As best I can reconstruct, the events which led to the adoption
of the water management district levy amendment were these:
In April of 1975, the ruling in the Hernando County v. SWFWMD case
made it apparent that water management district taxing authority
was in extreme jeopardy. On May 9, 1975, SJR 1061, by Senator
Phil Lewis, was read for the first time on the Senate Floor and
referred to the Committee on Rules and Calendar. This was a Joint
Resolution proposing the'amendment to Section 9, Article 7, of
the Constitution relating to local ad valorem taxes. On May 26, 1975,
Senate Committee on Rules and Calendar recommended a Committee
Substitute for SJR 1061. On May 28, 1975, SJR 1061 was taken up
out of order on the Senate Floor and passed 28 7. This version
of SJR 1061 provided for all water management districts to have
authorization to levy up to one mill. The nay votes at this time
were W. D. Childers, Glisson, MacKay, Pat Thomas, Tobiassen,
Wilson and Gallen. On May 29, 1975, SJR 1061 was read for the first
time in the House and referred to Natural Resources and to Finance
and Taxation. On May 30, 1975, the Joint Resolution was withdrawn
from Natural Resources. Also, on May 30, 1975, the Joint Resolution
was read for the second time in the House. Placed on it this time
was the amendment by Rep.'s Craig and Mixson which limited the levying
power of the Northwest District to .05 mills. This amendment was
moved by Craig. The measure was then read for the third time and
passed 80 29. On June 3, 1975, the measure came back to the Senate
on a House message. It was, of course, in its amended form.
Page two .
Phil Lewis moved that the Senate concur on the House amendment
and the subsequent vote was 22 in favor and 13 against. Those
who voted against the amendment were President Barron, D. Childers,
Deeb, Dunn, Glisson, MacKay, Saunders, Saylor, Stolzenburg, J. Thomas,
P. Thomas, Vogt and Wilson. The measure was then read in its entirety
and voted upon. This vote was 25 in favor and 11 against. This
time, Dempsey Barron voted in favor of the motion. Those who voted
against it were D. Childers, W. D. Childers, Deeb, Dunn, MacKay,
Saunders, Stolzenburg, J. Thomas, Tobiassen, Ware, and Wilson.
Note that the Joint Resolution called for the election on this
proposed amendment to be held in November, 1976. The election was
actually held March 9, 1976.
Subsequent to the 1975 session, Don Morgan, then with South
Florida, and Sonny Vergara, then with SWFWMD, began a campaign
of local speaking engagements supporting the proposed amendment.
Sonny Vergara was active within the SWFWMD District and addressed
groups in that area. Don Morgan was active in Dade, Broward and
other counties within the South Florida District.
In December, 1975, a group of interested persons decided to form
a non-profit corporation to promote the proposed amendment. This
corporation, F.L.O.W., INC. was incorporated on December 3, 1975,
with Phil Lewis as President, Jim Apthorp as Vice President and
Director and one, Billy Ketcham as Secretary-Treasurer. The
Resident Agent was Bob Rhodes. This Corporation was created to
raise funds to work for the passage of the amendment.
Don Morgan remembers that the entire budget of the Corporation
never exceeded $5,000-$6,000 and that there was no paid advertising
purchased to promote the amendment. He described the entire campaign
as an extremely low-key one and one that engendered very little
controversy. He does remember that the Chief Opponent, however,
was Buddy MacKay and remembers that on one occasion Buddy MacKay
debated Bob Graham on the merits of the proposal. The proposal,
however, never achieved major statewide recognition, such as
something like E.R.A. Both before and after the creation of the
non-profit corporation, Phil Lewis and Reuben Askew were extremely
active in visiting the editorial boards of major Florida newspapers
and arguing in favor of the amendment, Don Morgan remembered.
Morgan places much of the credit for passage of the proposal on
the shoulders of Lewis and Askew.
The election on the proposed amendment was held on March 9, 1976,
during the same balloting as the March Presidential Preference
Primary of that year. There were 3,532,928 voters in the state
at that time. 1,335,240 ballots were cast on the amendment
proposal, or 37.79% of the state's voters. There were 735,175 yes
votes on the proposal and 600,066 no votes. This means that 55%
of those who voted were for the amendment. Note that 49 of 67 or
73%, of the state's counties opposed this proposal. Very few
counties north of the Orlando area (see attached map).
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Page three .
For comparative purposes, note the outcome of other major constitu-
tional amendments in years prior to the 1976 Water Management
District Levy Amendment.
1968 -- Revision of the Florida Constitution.
There were 2,765,316 registered voters in the state. The voters
were faced with three questions; one on the basic constitutional
document, another on a suffrage and elections amendment and yet
another on a local government amendment. The basic document had
a voter turnout of 42% of the state's registered voters and
passed by 55% of the vote. The suffrage and elections amendment
drew 41% of the state's electorate and passed by 56% of the vote.
The local government amendment drew 41% of the state's electorate
and passed by 55% of the vote. This was a general election on
November 5, 1968.
1971 -- The Constitutional Amendment Creating a Tax on Corporate
Profits of Florida Industry.
There were 3,015,931 voters in the state at that time and 40%
of the electorate turned out for this election. 70% of those
who voted were in favor of the Corporate Profits Tax. Please
note, however, the Corporate Profits Tax was the subject of an
intense campaign by Reuben Askew, who used the promise of the
tax as a campaign promise during his 1970 election bid.
1974 -- The Constitutional Amendment on a Gross Receipts Tax.
There were 3,621,256 voters registered in the state at that
time and there were 7 constitutional amendments on the ballot.
36% of the electorate voted on the gross receipts tax and the
issue passed, with 65% of those who voted voting for the tax.
Please note this was a general election and not an ad valorem
1978 -- The Casino Gambling Issue.
There were 4,217,187 registered voters in Florida at that time
and 50% of the electorate turned out to vote on the issue.
The issue failed, with 71.4% of those who voted voting against
allowing casino gambling in Florida. Note, however, that this
was an extremely emotional issue with profound religious overtones
and Governor Reuben Askew campaigned mightily against casino
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