Proposed bill could lead to MSD referendum


There is a proposed bill set to go forth before the Florida legislature during the state legislative session this year that pertains to special districts and the rules surrounding them.

The bill was brought to the attention of the Ponte Vedra Municipal Service District during its meeting on Dec. 11 by board attorney Wayne Flowers.

According to Flowers, there is a bill being proposed to the state legislature that if passed would require a referendum to take place in 2025, where the residents would vote to decide whether Ponte Vedra Beach would remain a special district.

House Bill 7013 states that elected members of an independent special district cannot serve more than 12 consecutive years unless the district’s charter provides more restrictive terms of office.

However, service of terms prior to Nov. 5, 2024, would not count toward the limitation imposed by the subsection.

“For folks who had already served, it doesn’t count towards the 12 years,” Flowers said. “So, in other words, it is a ‘going-forward’ type of legislation.”

The bill would also require a continuation referendum to be held every 10 years for independent special districts that exercise ad valorem tax authority.

“There are folks who have concerns about special-purpose governments that levy taxes, and that they are not adequately controlled, although there is an entire chapter in the statues that deal with and restrict and instruct how special districts operate. “That’s something to look at and pay attention to. The Florida Association of Special Districts is following it.”

The proposed bill would also repeal a provision that allows a special district to convert itself into a municipality without legislative approval.

Trustee Kitty Switkes asked how it would affect the MSD’s charter in the future?

“It would likely supersede it, because it would be a general law and not a special act,” Flowers said.

According to Flowers, when discussing changes to the MSD charter in recent years, it was modeled after legislation that had been passed pertaining to school boards around 2020 or 2021.

Trustee Mickey White was curious about what the genesis is behind the proposed law and what led to it.

“There have been efforts to limit authority of special districts at various times for as long as I’ve been doing this,” Flowers said. “A lot of times the impetus is that a legislature in a particular district has a beef with a special district. There was a review that was done when Gov. (Rick) Scott was governor and there was a fear on behalf of special districts that it was going to result in some further action, but there was no legislation that came out of it.”

There are provisions throughout the proposed bill covering a variety of special district types, including independent and dependent special districts, as well as community development districts.

The state legislature’s regular session is scheduled to convene on Jan. 9, with the last day for regularly scheduled committee meetings being Feb. 27 and the last of the legislature’s regular session coming on March 8.

“Who knows if this will pass or not,” Flowers said. “There are thousands of bills that are introduced every year and like maybe 200 to 250 pass.”

Flowers hopes to have more info and insight regarding the bill at future MSD meetings.