History of the County Charter

A Home Rule County Charter 

In July 1983, the Board of County Commissioners adopted an ordinance proposing a home rule charter for the county and voters approved the ordinance in a countywide referendum held in September 1983.

History of the County Charter

Attempts to institute home rule government in Hillsborough County date back to the 1950s. But it took years of study, two unsuccessful referenda on consolidation charters, and involvement by the local Legislative Delegation, county residents, and the Board of County Commissioners before Hillsborough County finally changed its form of government through a Home Rule Charter.

The efforts culminated in July 1983, when County Commissioners adopted an ordinance proposing a Home Rule Charter for the County and voters approved the ordinance in a countywide referendum held in September 1983. Because the Charter provided for a change in the elected officials who would govern the County – from five county commissioners elected at-large to seven commissioners, with four to be elected from single-member districts and three to be elected countywide – the County was required to submit the plan to the U.S. Attorney General for pre-clearance under the Voting Rights Act.

Implementation of the Charter, set for November 1984, was delayed when the U.S. Attorney General officially lodged objections shortly before a scheduled primary election. Additionally, plaintiffs in a then-pending lawsuit against the County and City of Tampa in federal district court sought to enjoin the election of county commissioners because the “4-3 plan” of four single-member districts and three at-large districts had not received pre-clearance.

The district court granted the injunction and prohibited the election of county commissioners. However, the County asked the Attorney General to reconsider his objections to the election plan. Upon consideration of the Charter and its 4-3 election plan, the Attorney General withdrew his objections. The district subsequently withdrew its bar to the election of commissioners, clearing the way for elections to be held. The first commissioners elected under the Charter took office and Charter government went into effect on May 28, 1985.

On November 5, 2002, voters approved amending the Charter to incorporate a County Internal Performance Auditor. The proposal of the 2000-01 Charter Review Board, this amendment became effective on November 19, 2002, and has been pre-cleared by the U.S. Attorney General. In February 2004, County Commissioners adopted Hillsborough County Ordinance 04-9 proposing an amendment to the Charter.

This amendment redrafted Section 6, changing the selection and supervision of the County Attorney from the County Administrator to the Board of County Commissioners. This amendment was approved by the voters on November 2, 2004, and became effective upon adoption. The proposal was pre-cleared by the U.S. Attorney General.

Charter at a glance

  • Responsibilities of the executive branch (County Administrator) and legislative branch
    (County Commission) are specified, and neither branch is to exercise powers pertaining to
    the other branch
  • There are seven members of the County Commission; four are from single-member
    districts, and three are elected countywide. Every elector of the County may vote for a
    majority of the commissioners: the commissioner representing the elector’s district, and
    thee commissioners elected at large
  • Terms of County Commissioners are staggered
  • The Charter does not affect any court, any constitutional office, district school board or any
  • Special laws enacted by the Florida Legislature may be affective in Hillsborough County
    without approval by the County electors if they relate to: civil service, aviation, the port,
    sports, transportation, hospitals, planning, environment, solid waste management,
    consumer affairs, resource recovery, criminal justice, historic preservation, and the arts.
  • There are provisions for recall of elected officials
  • There is a provision for a Charter Review Board to be appointed by the County Commission
    two years after the implementation and every five years thereafter. The Charter Review
    Board is empowered to conduct a study of County government and propose amendments
    to the charter
  • Amendments also may be proposed by the County Commission by ordinance adopted by
    five commissioners, or by initiative
  • No amendment may be effective unless it is approved by a majority vote of the electors of
    the County



Last Modified: 8/21/2023, 3:08:08 PM

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