Constitutional Revision Commission-What is it and Why is it Important?

Once every twenty years, Florida’s Constitution provides for the creation of a thirty-seven member revision commission for the purpose of reviewing Florida’s Constitution and proposing changes for voter consideration. The Commission is composed of the Attorney General, fifteen appointees from the Governor, nine appointees from the Florida Senate President, nine appointees from the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, and three appointees from the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. The Commission meets for approximately one year, traveling the State of Florida, identifying issues, performing research, and possibly recommending changes to the Constitution. Any amendments proposed by the Commission would be placed on the 2018 General Election ballot. Any amendments placed on the ballot by the Commission would have to secure 60 percent approval by voters to be added to the Constitution.

There is a meeting scheduled for Hillsborough County on Wednesday May 17, 2017.  Time and location TBD.  We will post when the information becomes available.

Please consider writing to the local papers or attending the meeting.  Below are some talking points.

CRC Talking Points
  1. The Constitutional Revision Committee comes just once every 20 years and Florida’s system gives its residents a unique opportunity to participate in amending the state’s Constitution. Unless, the CRC is under the Rick Scott administration.
  2. The 37 members of this body are largely big-money political donors, representatives of special interest groups, Tallahassee insiders and conservative ideologues who are only thinking about their bottom line as they re-write our constitution.
  3. To add insult to injury, Rick Scott and his political appointees are doing everything possible to keep this process, which is supposed to be open to the public, in the dark. Unlike previous CRCs, there is no way for citizens to submit a proposal and meetings between commission members are not publicly noticed if less than three members attend.
  4. It’s clear that Rick Scott will do everything in his power to keep this process a secret so he can keep funneling kickbacks to the special interest groups who fund him.
  5. The upcoming meetings conflict with the 2017 legislative session, meaning that five of the members (who are current lawmakers) are unable to attend.
  6. Several of the body’s proposed rules are troubling, including:
  •  Their allowance of closed meetings between three or more CRC members discussing commission matters. Meetings between two or more members of the body should be open and noticed to the public.
  • Erasing the word “open” from the past commission’s rules on the accessibility of CRC records, which undermines state Sunshine laws and transparency standards.
Recommended Questions
  1. You have published draft rules for the CRC. While they talk about open records and meetings, why did you change the requirement that records be “open” to requiring that the Commission’s records be “accessible”? What does “accessible” mean? The word “open” is the word that is used in the open records laws?
  2. It appears in the rules that the Chairman has the right to stop distribution of literature in the public areas of the capitol like hallways and galleries. That seems unfair to me and it is a violation of our rights to speak freely and petition our government.
  3. We are concerned about possible influences that can be brought to bear on elected officials who are on this commission. While your ethical rules provide that commission members cannot take anything of value from someone lobbying an issue, there is an exception for campaign contributions. So that means legislators and other elected officials might be tempted to vote on issues based on whether their votes will yield campaign contributions. That is why this is supposed to be a citizen’s commission! Your ethical rules should be changed so that legislators or other elected officials cannot take campaign contributions from any person or organization lobbying an issue before the CRC.
  4. Your rules allow electronic attendance at meetings via teleconference or telephone. This does not seem right. Shouldn’t all members who have been awarded the special privilege to serve on this CRC make it their business to attend all meetings in person except in cases of emergency? After all amending the constitution is a serious and important matter and must be done with the greatest care and attention. We all know that phoning in is no substitute for in person attendance!
  5. This business of allowing members to attend by phone is troubling to me. How do we know if the person phoning in is paying full attention to the debate? How do we know who is in the room with that person? Why would any member not take their responsibility as a commissioner seriously enough to make the effort to attend? And does this policy provide an opening for funny business where a member only calls in to make a particular vote that is needed to pass or defeat some issue?
  6. The work of this commission is so important. I see in the proposed rules that Committee Chairs have the discretion to excuse members from attendance at meetings. But there is no requirement that the excuse be for good cause. Why not? I think members should be required to attend unless they have health or family emergencies or other totally unavoidable issues.
  7. I see in your proposed rules that you have removed the requirement that committee meetings be scheduled so that members do not have conflicts with other committee meetings. Why? You should be able to set up the committee membership so that there are no conflicts? Do you not consider full attendance at committees important?
  8. Will the public be able to provide in person comment on proposals at committee meetings? Your proposed rules say the Chairman has discretion to refuse to recognize members of the public. Why is that is your rules? Do you not want to encourage public participation? It does not state anywhere in the rules that the public has the right to provide input!
  9. We noticed that under your rules if the Chair does not like the way a committee is going on a proposal he has the power to refer the proposal to another committee. Doesn’t this give the chair extraordinary power over whether a proposal is approved or not?
  10. Apparently under your rules if the Chair does not like the way a committee is going on a proposal he has the power to refer the proposal to another committee. But the rules also say that committees will be set up so that each article of the constitution is assigned to one committee. So how will that work? Proposals will only seek to change one article of the constitution. How would it be possible to send a proposal to a committee that is charged with revisions for a different constitutional provision?
  11. In your proposed rules you allow committees to kill proposals. In 1997-98 committees only made recommendations to the full CRC and the full CRC then voted them up or down. Why did you make that change. Wouldn’t it be better for the full commission to make important decisions like whether a proposal should go to the ballot?
  12. Can you clarify what section 2.12 means? “The vote of the members present of a committee on final consideration of’ proposal shall be recorded.” Are you recording how each member voted on amendments? What is the intent here?

 

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