This generation’s Florida Constitution Revision Commission has concluded, and it’s a good thing another won’t form again for 20 years.
It may take the state that long to recover from this one.
In its final meeting Monday, the 37-member commission defied its critics and dissenters by approving a whopping 12 proposed constitutional amendments for the Nov. 6 ballot. But that number doesn’t tell the whole story.
Unlike the Legislature, the CRC is not bound by any rule requiring individual amendments to be limited to a single subject. Nor is there review of the ballot language by the Florida Supreme Court, which is required for citizen initiatives.
The CRC took full advantage of that by bundling several unrelated issues into eight packages, forcing voters to take the good with the bad. That means that some worthy proposals may be torpedoed by being harnessed to unpopular ones, or that some bad ideas will be dragged across the 60 percent threshold for voter approval because they were hitched to highly appealing measures.
For example, the CRC merged three education proposals. One would require civics education in public schools, one would impose two-term limits on school board members, and one would allow charter schools to bypass locally elected school boards to seek state approval. None has any bearing on the other.
And why are offshore drilling and vaping in the same amendment? Commissioner Roberto Martinez suggested breaking out five of the six bundled measures into 15 individual ballot proposals, but he was voted down.
The CRC’s first mistake was in embracing so many disparate issues, instead of being far more discriminating in what deserves to be part of a constitution. The commission behaved like a quasi-legislature, churning out several proposals that are better suited to be statutes, not enshrined in the Florida Constitution, which already is packed with too much detritus. Then the commission engaged in the classic legislative tactic of logrolling, bundling disparate proposals so at least one will carry the others.
From its beginning last year, the CRC appeared to be doing the bidding of House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate President Joe Negron and Gov. Rick Scott, who were responsible for appointing 34 of the members. Politics is unavoidable on the CRC, no matter the makeup of the commission. But the 2018 edition differs from the two previous ones (1978 and 1998) by being blatantly aligned with the agendas of its three biggest benefactors.
The CRC actually had until May 10 to continue the process, which would have allowed more time to consider unbundling the proposals and voting on the individual merits of each one. Instead, a large majority decided to shove it down the throats of commissioners, and voters.
Floridians should respond by rejecting all the bundled amendments in November. That would force the Legislature to do its job by acting on the issues instead of passing the buck. And it might send a strong message to the next CRC in 2038 not to squander such an important opportunity with crass political moves.
- Daytona Beach News-Journal