JEA sale question headed to November ballot

Nonbinding straw question approved 19-0 by City Council.
By: 
Apr. 10, 2018

Voters will get their chance to weigh on the potential sale of JEA by answering a question on the Nov. 6 ballot.

City Council members unanimously approved legislation Tuesday night to add the nonbinding straw question, which was sponsored by council members John Crescimbeni and Garrett Dennis.

The question reads: “Should the City of Jacksonville City Council call for a binding referendum to approve the terms and conditions of any City Council action approving the sale of more than 10% of JEA?”

According to a Feb. 14 opinion by city General Counsel Jason Gabriel, no voter referendum is required for the city to sell JEA, the public utility.

According to the City Charter, only a supermajority of 13 of 19 council members is required to sell more than 10 percent of the utility, if the JEA board of directors pursues it, followed by approval from Mayor Lenny Curry.

In response to Gabriel’s opinion and the ongoing conversation at City Hall, Crescimbeni, who is leading a special council committee on the potential sale of JEA, suggested voters should decide if a charter change is necessary.

Council members also introduced a pair of resolutions about the potential JEA sale that will work their way through city committees in the coming weeks.

Matt Schellenberg introduced 2018-242, a resolution “recognizing the unique quality of owning an electric and water authority.” The bill encourages the mayor and JEA to proceed with a review and study of a potential JEA sale, and to proceed with presenting a proposal for a sale to council if they determine doing so “is in the best interest of the city.”

Council members Jim Love, Reggie Gaffney and Joyce Morgan introduced 2018-248, a resolution expressing council’s opposition to selling the public utility “at this time.”

Both bills will go through public hearings in the Finance, the Rules, and the Transportation, Energy & Utilities committees, as well as the Neighborhoods, Community Services, Public Health and Safety committee over the next few weeks.