Orange County rent control vote should not count, appeals court says

An appeals court ruled that Orange County’s rent control referendum should have been thrown off the ballot.

An opinion of Florida’s 5th District Court of Appeal said that a rent control ordinance appearing on general election ballots violates the Florida Constitution.

“Florida counties that operate under county charters — such as the one in this case — have the power of self-government,” the opinion reads. “But the Florida Constitution limits that authority. For example, local governments cannot pass an ordinance that is inconsistent with general and special laws passed by the Florida Legislature. Such an ordinance would be unconstitutional in nature.”

The decision overturns the decision of the circuit court last month the claim that objections to the ordinance may well prove successful, but the referendum vote should still go ahead.

The appellate opinion says that was a mistake. A vote should not be held on “an unconstitutional ordinance described in a misleading summary of the vote.”

The biggest problem, according to the opinion, is a 1977 law still in effect that says Florida counties can’t impose rent control measures except in limited circumstances and don’t have excess exemptions. The court ruled that Orange County’s proposal did not meet those thresholds.

While the appeals court overturns the lower court’s decision, the measure is already appearing on already printed ballots. In fact, as of Oct. 28, the day the appellate opinion was released, 112,009 Orange County voters had already voted by mail or early voting. Fresh Take Florida.

The court ordered an injunction on the referendum, but did not specify how the Orange County Supervisor of Elections, a defendant in a lawsuit filed by Florida Realtors and the Florida Apartment Association, should deal with the decision.

“However, at a minimum, we assume that the results of the ballot initiative will not be verified,” the opinion states.

The opinion was written by an appellate judge Dan TraverCommissioner Gov. Ron DeSantiswith the approval of the appellate judge Meredith Sassoone of the former governors Rick Scott final bench appointment.

But the appellate judge Jay Cohenex-governor’s assignee. Charlie Cristdid not agree.

“The District has presented a wealth of facts supporting its position that there is a housing crisis in Orange County, a state of emergency so severe that it poses a serious threat to the general public,” the dissent states. “For the most part, real estate agencies did not dispute these facts. Consequently, our review should be limited to whether these facts are sufficient to satisfy the statutory requirements.’

Supporters of the rent control proposal grimaced at the decision.

Rep. Anna Eskamanithe Orlando Democrat, who sponsored the measure, said it was “frustrating that Floridians here in Orange County are facing exorbitant rent increases and a housing crisis, that those profiting from the crisis are blocking voters’ votes.

But the plaintiffs praised the decision in the lawsuit.

“The Florida Condo Association is grateful that the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled to remove this dangerous and illegal measure from the ballot,” the statement said. Chip Tatum, executive vice president of the Florida Apartment Association. “Moving forward, we are committed to working with state and local policymakers on real solutions that will strengthen housing supply and address the needs of a growing population.”

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