Part two in our seven part series from The Florida County Government Guide: Evolution of County Government Structure in Florida will focus on Charter & Non-Charter Counties.   

Part 2 in a 7 part series

CHARTER AND NON-CHARTER COUNTIES

One of the most important structural variations for Florida county government is whether or not a county has adopted a charter. Counties that adopt a charter are called charter counties and the ones that have not are called non-charter counties. While reforms to county government in Florida have given all counties more independence, charter counties do differ in significant ways from non-charter counties. As of 2015, 20 counties in the Sunshine State have adopted a charter allowing significant home rule (see Table 2.1). The other 47 counties have not adopted a charter, but could do so following the procedures outlined in the Constitution and state statute.

Table 2.1. Florida’s Charter Counties and the Dates Chartered.

 Source: Florida Association of Counties.

County Charters

A county charter is a state grant of authority that sets forth governmental boundaries, powers and functions, structure and organization, methods of finance, and means of electing or appointing local officials. In other words, a charter may be thought of as a type of local government constitution.

Charter and Non-Charter Counties

The general underlying difference between charter and non-charter counties is the extent of home rule and freedom from state control. The Florida Constitution states that charter counties “shall have all powers of local self-government not inconsistent with general law...” and that non-charter counties “shall have the power of self-government as is provided by general or special law.” This is a subtle difference but in essence means that charters counties can do what they wish as long as it does not conflict with state law while non-charter counties can only do what state statute allows them to do.

A number of important differences between charter and non-charter counties are displayed in Table 2.2.

Table 2.2. Basic Differences between Charter and Non-Charter Counties.

NON-CHARTER

CHARTER

Structure of county government specified in State Constitution and Florida Statutes. Only amending the State Constitution or state law can change structure.

Structure of county government specified in charter as approved by the electorate. Structure can be tailored by the local electorate to meet the needs of the county.

Counties have powers of self-government as prescribed by the state legislature.

Counties have all powers of self-government unless they are inconsistent with the Constitution or state law.

State statutes do not provide for initiative or referendum, or recall of county officers.

County charter may provide for initiative, referendum and recall at the county level.

State statutes do not require an Administrative Code.

County charter can require an Administrative Code detailing all regulations, policies and procedures.

County cannot levy a utility tax in the unincorporated area.

County charter can provide that a “municipal utility tax” is levied in the unincorporated area.

County ordinance will not apply in a municipality if in conflict with a municipal ordinance.

When there is a conflict between a county ordinance and a municipal ordinance the charter will provide for the resolution.

 Source: Florida Association of Counties as supplemented by the author.

This concludes part two of a seven part series on the structure of county government in Florida. If you would like more information on charter & non-charter governments including how to adopt or revise a charter, reference or purchase the Florida County Government Guide.

The first in the series was: 1. The Evolution of County Government (link to previous article).  Throughout the rest of the year we will look at:  3. Forms of County Government: Commission Form; 4. Forms of County Government: Administrator or Manager Form; 5. Forms of County Government: Executive Form; 6. Assessing the three forms of government; and, 7. Commission District Structures.

If you find this series informative, it is excerpts from the Florida County Government Guide. The Florida County Government Guide is a comprehensive reference on all aspects of Florida county government.  The Guide includes information on Florida’s history, the structure of county government, leadership and management, budgeting methods and strategies, economic development opportunities, growth management, human resources, emergency management, purchasing and contracting, health and safety, infrastructure and more.  To purchase your copy of the Florida County Government Guide, please click here.


Alachua

1987

Miami-Dade

1957

Brevard

1994

Orange

1986

Broward

1975

Osceola

1992

Charlotte

1986

Palm Beach

1985

Clay

1991

Pinellas

1980

Columbia

2002

Polk

1998

Duval

1967

Sarasota

1971

Hillsborough

1983

Seminole

1989

Lee

1996

Volusia

1971

Leon

2002

 

Wakulla

2008