Every 20 years, Florida is required to review its Constitution, to determine whether revisions are warranted. It’s an important exercise, much more lasting than the annual legislative changes in state laws, because it provides a framework for laws and judicial decisions. A Constitution Revision Commission is created each time to handle the duty to examine and recommend changes, and a new Commission will be appointed and will meet in 2017 to fulfill its mission. The amendments will go directly to the ballot for a voter decision in November 2018.
Why should you care? Because more than you know, Florida’s Constitution can have far-reaching effects on what you do and how you live your life. It can restrict your freedom or expand it, increase your taxes or lower them, hurt your business or help it.
Thirty-seven Commissioners will be appointed for the task of reviewing and proposing changes. Who’s on it? The attorney general, Pam Bondi, automatically is a member. The governor makes 15 appointments, and the chief justice of Florida’s Supreme Court has three appointments. The Senate president and House speaker each get nine selections.
Commissioners will most likely be named in the spring but no later than June 2017, and the first meeting will be this summer.
The last time the Commission acted was 1998, when it proposed nine amendments to Florida’s Constitution. Voters passed eight proposals, including firearms purchases, changes to the elections process, and proper education funding. At that time, a simple majority vote of more than 50% was required to pass an amendment. Nowadays, it takes 60% to pass.
In the 1978 election, 20 years earlier, none of the Commission’s proposed revisions were approved by voters.
Sometimes voters clutter up the Constitution by adding dumb provisions. But usually, these come from citizen initiatives, not the Constitutional Review Commission. An example of a stupid citizen initiative that never should have found its way into Florida’s constitution was in 2002 when a vote passed to protect pregnant pigs against pens that were too small.
The Commission will hold two sets of public hearings all over Florida, one to gather ideas from the public and one to obtain feedback on proposals adopted by the Commission. One of the issues that could be addressed in the upcoming Commission deliberations is complaints of judicial overreach, and the issue of Florida courts impinging on the legislature’s constitutional power to make laws. Term limits and judicial nominations might also be topics.
So if you’re moaning about your insignificance in the political process, here’s your chance to make a difference by speaking up a public hearing or communicating to Commission members.
Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of BizPac Review.
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