SARASOTA -- Bob Graham has been an outspoken advocate for civics education over the years.
The former Democratic governor and U.S. senator from Florida wrote a book about civic engagement and founded the Bob Graham Center for Public Service at the University of Florida, which is devoted to “revitalizing the civic culture of Florida and the nation.”
Yet come November, Graham said he plans to vote against a constitutional amendment that promotes civics education in Florida. That’s because Graham doesn’t like that civics education was paired with a proposal that would allow the state to certify charter schools, bypassing local school boards.
“I’m going to end up voting against an amendment that I feel strongly about because it’s surrounded by what I think is bad policy,” Graham said Monday during an interview with the Herald-Tribune.
Graham criticized the Florida Constitution Revision Commission – a body that meets every 20 years to propose amendments to Florida’s constitution – for bundling separate policy proposals into single amendments. The CRC packaged 20 different changes to state law into eight amendments this year.
The education amendment that includes civics education, charter school changes and term limits for school board members is one of the more controversial examples of the CRC’s bundling. The commission also paired a ban on offshore oil drilling with a ban on vaping in workplaces.
Lisa Carlton, a CRC member and former GOP state senator from Sarasota, told the Herald-Tribune recently it makes sense to pair proposals that have a "common theme." But critics argue that activities such as oil drilling and vaping are very different.
Graham co-chaired the National Commission on the BP Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill and Offshore Oil Drilling, which was formed to prevent future oil spills after the 2010 disaster in the Gulf of Mexico. He strongly opposes oil drilling off the coast of Florida but knows little about vaping.
“I’ll have to study vaping to see what I feel about that,” he said.
The Deepwater Horizon Commission made a series of recommendations aimed at strengthening drilling regulations. President Donald Trump’s administration has been moving to roll back some of the regulations, something Graham opposes.
Florida suffered a major economic blow from the Deepwater Horizon disaster, even though the blown well wasn’t off the coast of Florida and the impact on Florida beaches was confined to the western Panhandle. Graham said the disaster had a big “psychological effect” that hurt tourism in Florida. He worries that could happen again.
“What I’m afraid is these rollbacks of safety recommendations are going to make it more likely that this is going to occur in the future,” he said.
Graham was visiting Sarasota to campaign for his daughter, Gwen Graham, a former Democratic congresswoman who is running for governor this year.