Miami-Dade commissioners ask governor to veto airport authority vote
By Victor Cruz
County commissioners fired their first salvo Tuesday against two bills - just approved by the legislature and affecting local government - and called for the governor to veto a vote on transferring the airport's business to a state authority and to repeal another bill allowing the state to affect the county's charter.
Exasperated with Miami-Dade County scandals, legislators in Tallahassee passed last week a bill that will force a county referendum on establishing a state-created airport authority and another that asks Florida residents to vote on whether the state can propose changes to the county's charter.
But commissioners quickly saw it as infringement on the county's rights during their first meeting since this year's legislative session ended.
"If we allow this to go on in Tallahassee, where will it end? Will it be land use and zoning next," said Commissioner Dennis Moss.
The airport authority measure, tagged on as an amendment to a larger airport-related bill, calls for a fall 2002 county referendum giving voters the option of transferring authority of Miami International Airport from the county to a state-created authority.
While commissioners say they want the governor to veto the bill, state Rep. Renier Diaz de la Portilla - who along with his brother, Sen. Alex Diaz de la Portilla, proposed the law - said the county's chances of fighting it were slim.
"It's not going to be easy for the governor to veto that bill when all sorts of issues are dealt with in it, including transportation and racial profiling," said Rep. Diaz de la Portilla.
While Miami-Dade Mayor Alex Penelas said in February that the creation of an independent airport authority in the county was unlikely, he said Tuesday through his spokesman that he has always been a supporter of an independent authority. He said he only backs an authority if the county - not the state - calls for it.
The move to change the home rule charter, sponsored by state Rep. Carlos Lacasa, calls for a statewide vote in November 2002. In the measure, Floridians will be asked to decide on an amendment to the state constitution enabling the legislature to propose changes to the county's home rule charter.
Commissioners, many of whom viewed the bills as retaliation for last year's skirmish with state legislators over a Public Health Trust matter, made their feelings known shortly before their lunch break. County attorneys hurried to draft the resolution during the break.
Commissioners talked about launching a campaign to make residents aware of the threat of losing their voice.
"We need to get on the radio and tell people what kind of government we have in Tallahassee: they are punishing the poorest people," said Commissioner Jimmy Morales.
A united front was seen as the best strategy with which to challenge the state's infringements, agreed commissioners. Commissioners also asked county attorneys to begin researching a legal challenge to the bills, though no lawsuit has been called for yet.
Despite the governor being in Miami Tuesday to visit Riverwalk and Habitat for Humanity and despite having spoken with the mayor Monday to offer support in arriving at a solution to the Marlins stadium problem, Mr. Perez said that the mayor did not speak with the governor or meet with him to discuss a veto of the new legislation.