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Group planning lawsuit in Miami-Dade to force new campaign-cash rules on November ballot


Backers of proposed campaign-cash rules said Monday they would sue Miami-Dade County to force the petition count needed to place their proposal on the November ballot.

An organizer of the petition drive, funded in part by union dollars, said his group plans to ask a judge Tuesday to instruct Miami-Dade Mayor Carlos Gimenez to order a count of about 127,000 signatures delivered to Elections Headquarters in two U-Haul trucks on Aug. 2.

The proposed rules would ban campaign donations from lobbyists and government vendors and lower the cap on individual gifts from $1,000 to $250. It also would expand Miami-Dade’s little-used public-financing option for candidates.

“The County’s failure to act not only goes against the will of the people, but it’s a failure to comply with county law,” Accountable Miami-Dade, a group led in part by a local union chief , said in a statement Monday. “The Mayor should be leading the effort to ensure that the voices of over 127,000 voters are heard, not hiding behind others.”

The petition delivery sparked a legal fight over the next steps. Miami-Dade’s charter says the County Commission “shall within 30 days order” a count of the petitions to make sure there are enough of them to win a spot on the ballot. But commissioners failed to muster a quorum at a special meeting last week, and another commission meeting is not scheduled this month.

In order for the measure to make the Nov. 8 ballot, the signatures must be verified and counted by the first week in September. Otherwise, the next opportunity for a countywide vote that wouldn’t require an expensive special election isn’t until 2018.

County lawyers issued a brief memo Friday declaring Gimenez does not have the authority to step in and order the count himself.

“I want those petitions to be counted. I want to get it on the November ballot,” Gimenez said Sunday during a televised debate with challenger Raquel Regalado on Channel 10’s “This Week in South Florida.” “Unfortunately I don’t have that power.”

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