Constitution Revision Commission

Editorial note: This post is by Jennifer Boddicker of the Naples Branch. She and Barbara Kanter attended one of the Constitution Revision Committee’s Public Hearings. I attended one in Jacksonville and perhaps many of you attended one as well. The Commission is now done with its first week of meetings. They will consider proposals in this order (scroll way down). You can still email comments to admin@flcrc.gov but they may not be read, but you can find a list of commissioners here and call them.

Below Boddicker’s account you will find a longer piece on all the proposed amendments by Linda Geller Schwarz.

Pat DeWitt

Every twenty years Florida considers amendments to the state constitution. 2018 is such a year. The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) narrows down proposed amendments to only a few that will appear on the ballot in November, to be voted on by the people of Florida. The CRC hosts listening tours to hear public input.

On March 5, we attended a public CRC session in Cape Coral. Six students from Parkland came to the event. They, like us, asked the CRC to add an amendment banning the sale of military style assault rifles and high capacity magazines. This will allow the people of Florida to decide, taking the decision out of NRA-complicit lawmaker’s hands.

As you’ve seen on television, these kids are eloquent and pointed. One called out the commissioners for looking at their phones during testimony. He insisted they “look him in the eye” while he spoke. One by one, the young people told their stories. Then they said if change didn’t happen, they’d be using the power of the vote to fire lawmakers.

So far, the Florida legislature has refused to ban the sale of the AR-15. However, the kids from Marjory Stoneman Douglas have transformed the gun debate. Before, change seemed impossible. Now, change is inevitable. We regret what they have gone through. We are that they are turning their trauma into a crusade to never let it happen again. Where grown-ups have failed to speak up, young people have the courage to challenge the status quo.

From Linda Geller Schwarz:

When Florida’s Constitution was rewritten in 1968, it contained a provision unique among the states: the creation of a commission that would meet every 20 years and provide recommended changes to the state constitution for Florida voters to decide on.  This year, all amendments proposed by the Commission need to be finalized by May 10, 2018 to be included on the November ballot.

The CRC is made up of 37 members, including the attorney general and individuals appointed by the governor, house speaker, senate president, and chief justice.  With Florida state government under single party control, the appointments to the 2017-2018 CRC were ideologically one-sided, resulting in many regressive proposals.

The CRC has now completed its final round of public hearings.  With the exception of a heated debate among supporters and opponents of grey-hound racing (proposal 67), most of the public comment focused on what the coalition organized by the League of Women Voters have called the “Terrible Ten”. They include:
Proposal 4 – Delete the No Aid provision from the Florida Constitution’s “Religious Freedom” protections and open the door to Floridians’ tax dollars potentially funding religious indoctrination, proselytizing, and discrimination

Proposal 22 – Eliminate all existing privacy protections, including reproductive rights, from Florida’s Constitution except for those specifically relating to informational privacy. It does this by narrowing the privacy clause so that it only applies “with respect to privacy of information and the disclosure thereof.”

Proposal 29 – Require mandatory use of the error-prone E-Verify program, potentially denying thousands of authorized immigrants and even citizen workers the ability to work without any meaningful avenue to seek redress.

Proposal 43 – Mandate term limits for local school board members rather than letting voters in the school districts decide how long a member can serve their community.

Proposal 45 – Give tax dollars to private schools through school vouchers including religious schools – creating a system of publicly funded education separate from our free public schools

Proposal 71 – Take sole control of charter schools away from local school boards and allow decisions about local education needs to be made at the state level.

Proposal 95 –Allow the state to preempt any local ordinances that big business can claim interferes with commerce between counties and other jurisdictions – such as living wage ordinances, protections from wage theft, local hiring preferences or local protections for the environment and natural resources.

Proposal 96 – Needlessly claiming to protect victims of crime while not providing any meaningful benefit to victims, interfering with the rights of the accused, and making it more difficult for the state to convict criminals.

Proposal 97 – Make it close to impossible for the constitution to be changed by initiative, by the Legislature or by any commission in the future.

(For details on these proposals go to the CRC website:  https://www.flcrc.gov/Proposals/Commissioner )

If you are counting, that makes nine proposals.  The tenth, Proposal 72, would tie the hands of future elected leaders and severely limit Florida’s ability to invest in public education, mental health care, affordable housing, roads and bridges, parks, beaches and workforce training programs by requiring a supermajority vote of the Legislature to raise taxes or fees.  The CRC does not need to put this on the November ballot, because the Florida legislature has already passed a bill to do so (HB 7001/SB1742).  If the Courts allow this on the ballot as written and it passes, this will be very damaging for the future of the state.

While all of the above would be bad changes that pubic testimony and surveys show Floridians do not want,  there is one amendment on the table that is a great idea.

CRC Commissioners Coxe, Plymale, Joyner, and Kruppenbacher have proposed  an amendment that would ban assault weapons., require a 10 day waiting period to purchase a firearm and incorporate some of the other provisions that were approved in the recent school safety bill.   If at least 22 of the 37 Commissioners approve this amendment, it could be placed directly on the ballot in November!
The CRC has indicated they will be taking up the proposals in the following order (scroll down):  http://flcrc.gov/Meetings/Calendar/2017/Daily_Calendars_2018-03-14_182335.PDF
 

Author: Pat DeWitt

I am a retired institutional researcher, a musician and musicologist, and support AAUW as well as several environmental causes.

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