Do Officers of Executive Department Meet Criterion for Public Funds Exception ?
The scope of this public funds exception was tested in City of Pensacola v. King, 47 So. 2d 317 (Fla. 1950). King involved a challenge by the Railroad and Public Utilities Commission to a statute authorizing the City of Pensacola to regulate taxicabs.
This Court noted that the act in question authorized the commission to determine the extent of its adjoining suburban territory.
The Court stated:
"To determine this and perhaps other questions, it may become necessary for the Commission to have a hearing requiring the expenditure of public funds." King 47 So. 2d at 319.
On this basis, the Court held that the commission had met the public funds exception.
The reasoning in King severely stretched the disbursement of public funds exception to authorize the commission to challenge the act.
As noted by the Second District Court of Appeal in Turner, the same argument raised in King was rejected by this Court three years later in Barr v. Watts, 70 So. 2d 347 (Fla. 1953).
As the Turner court correctly stated:
Shortly after King was decided, the supreme court rejected this same argument, distinguished the dictum in King and re-affirmed the rule of State ex rel. Atlantic Coast Line Railway Co. v. State Board of Equalizers, 84 Fla. 592, 94 So. 681 (1922), that the "right to declare an act unconstitutional . . . cannot be exercised by the officers of the executive department under the guise of the observance of their oath of office to support the Constitution." Turner, 739 So. 2d at 178 (quoting Barr v. Watts, 70 So. 2d 347, 350-51 (Fla. 1953)).