Power to the people? Lawmakers want to ditch a state commission that has spurred important changes to Florida’s Constitution

Constitution
Excerpt from 1885 Florida Constitution. Photo edited and used with permission. Credit: State Archives of Florida.

From prohibiting offshore oil and gas drilling to phasing out the troubled industry of greyhound racing, Floridians went to the polls last November to make dramatic changes to the state’s Constitution.

The amendments were a big deal – 11 of 12 were approved – and several stemmed from Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission, known as the CRC.

Though it might be obscure to everyday Floridians, the CRC has a job. It meets every 20 years to consider revising Florida’s Constitution.

Now, the CRC has left a sour taste with some state senators.

They’ve already approved two resolutions during committee meetings this week, one of which would kill the CRC outright.

Critics say, in part, that the CRC has become an archaic way to make changes when the public and advocacy groups can propose their own amendment campaigns, buttressed by social media. The Legislature can also propose Amendments.

But proponents still want to keep the CRC.

“The people who created the commission two generations ago had in mind a citizen’s panel, free of political pressures, that would be more forward-looking than the Legislature,” the South Florida Sun Sentinel wrote in a recent editorial.

The 37 members who served on the CRC last year were all appointed by then-Gov. Rick Scott and by GOP leaders in the state House and Senate. Thirty-four were Republicans, and just three were Democrats.

The second resolution that came up this week would restrict the CRC to only one subject when presenting a Constitutional amendment on the Florida ballot.

Why is this a big deal?

Some voters thought the amendments that contained more than one issue – called “bundling” — got too complicated and forced people to vote on all parts of an amendment even if they approved of only one issue in a measure.

Unlike Florida Constitutional Amendments proposed by the public or the Legislature, the CRC can bundle more than one subject..

In last November’s election, five “bundled” measures went before the public – and all of them passed.

“This must end,” declared Fleming Island Republican Rob Bradley, the state senator who is sponsoring the single-subject resolution in the Florida Senate. He added that bundling was a “terrible way to amend” the state Constitution.

Representatives from the League of Women Voters of Florida, the AFL-CIO labor union and the Southern Poverty Law Center Action Fund support Bradley’s resolution on the bundling issue.

Bradley singled out Amendment 10 on last November’s ballot as being particularly “egregious.”

Titled “State and Local Government Structure and Operation,” the measure banned  counties from abolishing local offices such as clerk of the courts and property appraiser and, instead, required those officials to be elected by voters, not appointed.

It was combined with three other issues that were relatively innocuous: Setting dates of legislative sessions; authorizing the Legislature to provide for a state Department of Veterans’ Affairs and creating a state Office of Domestic Security and Counter-terrorism within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“That was window dressing to hide what resulted in fundamental changes to how our local government was set up,” Bradley complained.

Republican Senator Jeff Brandes, who represents part of Pinellas County, is looking at more than a bundling issue. He wants to outright eliminate the CRC from ever meeting again.

“While some of my colleagues would say, ‘Look, let’s limit it to one issue, I think the issue of the CRC, which is really unique in many cases to Florida, it’s time for us to ask the question to the people of the state of Florida, as to whether we should get rid of the CRC process as a whole, and it’s my intention that we should,” Brandes said in discussing his resolution this week.

“Maybe we need to let it go,” said Senator Jose Javier Rodriguez, a Democrat who represents part of Miami-Dade County.

Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson, who represents part of Duval County, says she supports the eliminating the CRC.

“Power to the people,” she said.

 

4 COMMENTS

  1. The selection process for the CRC is the problem. The purpose of the CRC is well thought out. It was not designed to be populated by a super majority of one party to implement “laws” they couldn’t pass in session.

  2. The only people empowered to change the Florida constitution via the FCRC WERE THE POLITICIANS SITTING ON THE DAIS!

    Besides, they all knew it was a ploy to get their jiggered ideas passed by the same panel.

    Because there is a void in Florida’s constitution as to who will choose which legislation can get a Hearing and Vote, the Senate President and House Speaker apparently over long-past years have just stepped into those slots!

    Not undergoing any attempts to qualify them as nonpartisan enough to be so anointed, they continue to Bar Any Hearings of legislation they do not “like” if it appears to help those whom they do not like.

    Perfect example is the nearly 100-yearold legislation that’s been proposed again, after the 1970s surges, consistently for the past 19 nonstop YEARS but kept out of the public fora known as Hearings:

    the ratification by the Fl legislature of the noble Equal Rights Amendment which serves only to make rampant Sex Discrimination against male and female a Violation of our US Constitution!

    Not just GOP partisanship rules that decision year after year, it appears to be blocked from open public hearings due to corporate donors’ fears that women’s equal wages for the same job as men’s , same hours and same or better credentials, may impact corporate bottom lines; it may correct the 20% of men’s wages that women lose! See US Dept of Labor figures that validate that!

    Pure greed seems the reason. BUT…

    The lack of equal treatment of women workers impacts family budgets, AND ALSO seems to rise to the level of ABROGATION OF THE FIRST AMENDMENT’S RIGHT TO FREE SPEECH:

    AS A RESULT, both the Florida public AND legislators have never been allowed to hear and speak to this Amendment’s fine advantages for All, including corporations! Not Heard in Florida’s House in all its latest 19 solid, unpaid, 18/7 YEARS! Heard twice long ago in Florida’s Senate, this Amendment passed out Twice overwhelmingly. But not since.

    Our Constitutional lawyers believe this may rise to the level of ABROGATION OF FIRST AMENDMENT RIGHTS.

    We believe this manipulation of Hearings is shameful and that perpetrators are shirkers of their honest duty to hear legislation of such import that it Affects 100% of citizens, esp. females!

    THIS is the innocuous wording of the Equal Rights Amendment filed since 1972, but withheld from Public and Legislative comment for a full 19 years. I reached out to FCRC in desperation to our supporters in Nat’l Equal Rights Amendment Alliance AND the 3 other major huge ERA organizations. They put me through the ringer when I was allowed to speak for TWO minutes by telling me I myself had to write the proposed wording to correct this void in our FL constitution. Took me 3 months. It was entirely ignored, probably never even read, no Reply. But the Panel’voted in mostly ITs own proposals

    This was a fool’s errand played on me, I believe, and on many other serious and worthy proposals. IF there is no other way to nonpartisan decisions by self-appointed deciders, then sadly this fine idea should be discarded completely. We 300 000+ hereby support Senator Brandes’ proposal to discard the FCRC forthwith. Just call me “naive” or stupid for falling for this farce.

  3. No thanks for deleting my comment on the FCRC.

    Nowadays, it seems that abrogation of any part of the Florida or US Constitution can be disappeared

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