Every 20 years, the Constitution Revision Commission meets to propose amendments to the Florida Constitution. The CRC is one of five ways to change our Constitution and the only one to allow citizens to promote a revision. The citizens initiative is laborious — nearly 1 million voter petitions are needed — and requires approval of the Florida Supreme Court, which decides if the proposal is clear, concise and a single-subject (so as not to mislead the voters).
On the other hand, the CRC, after several public hearings and input from the public, votes among the Commission on which proposals to send directly to the ballot. There are no restrictions on the CRC, and their proposals do not have to go to the Florida Supreme Court. The CRC consists of 37 members, which include: the (Republican) attorney general, 15 members chosen by the (Republican) governor, nine members chosen by the (Republican) speaker of the house, nine members chosen by the (Republican) president of the senate and three members selected by the chief justice of the state Supreme Court. Do you see a recurring partisan slant of the CRC?
Of the 13 constitutional amendments appearing on November's ballot, only one was proposed by citizens initiative — amendment 4: restoration of voting rights. Four amendments were sent directly to the ballot by the Republican-led Florida Legislature, again, not having any restrictions as to language or review, unlike citizen initiatives.
The remaining eight proposals come directly from the Republican-appointed CRC. Seven of these proposals include two or more "subjects/issues" within a single amendment. As noted previously, citizen initiatives are required to be single-subject — the hypocrisy of the CRC.
Why, you might ask, would the CRC combine differing subjects in a single amendment? The only logical answer would be to mislead the voter and appeal to the voters support/opposition of a partial amendment to pass a portion which would not be supported/opposed on its own.
Take for example, proposed amendment 10: state and local government structure. This proposal requires (1) all charter-county governments to have elected constitutional officers; (2) moves the annual commencement date for the legislative session from March to January in even-numbered years; and (3) creates an Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism within the state’s Department of Law Enforcement. While we might support (3) and not care one way or the other about (2), don't we want to oppose (1) on the basis of home rule, objecting to Tallahassee telling Lake County how to structure its government? So how does a voter vote on this amendment? No?
Or, consider amendment 8: school board term limits, allow state to operate non-board established schools and civic literacy. This proposal (1) creates a term limit of eight consecutive years for school board members; (2) permits the state to operate, control and supervise public schools not established by the school board; and (3) requires the legislature to provide for the promotion of civic literacy in public schools. Don't we support home rule and oppose Tallahassee mandating how our school board operates, however support civic literacy in our schools? How does a voter vote on this amendment? No?
Perhaps you support/oppose a multiple-subject amendment. This, too, is contrary to what is expected of a citizen initiative. Take amendment 9, which bans offshore drilling and extraction of oil and natural gas and bans vaping (electronic cigarettes) similar to current restrictions on cigarette smoking. What do these two have to do with each other? Do you vote yes?
The hypocrisy of the CRC should be evident to every voter. It has contrived the amendments to be as confusing to voters as possible. It is as if the Commission does not care about the voter but marches to the demands of its behind-the-scenes legislative dictators.
Perhaps the next citizen initiative should be to dissolve the CRC.
By Nancy Hurlbert.