The newly-formed Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) won’t spend time on changes that can’t pass at the ballot box, its chairman said Monday.
“If the public doesn’t feel overwhelmingly supportive of (a proposed amendment), then why do it?” said Carlos Beruff, the Manatee County homebuilder appointed by Gov. Rick Scott. The panel held an organizational meeting in the Capitol.
“It just doesn’t make sense (when) we have a threshold of 60 percent,” he added. “We don’t need to waste the taxpayers’ money or their time with proposals we don’t think are going to meet that.”
The 37-member panel meets every 20 years to suggest rewrites and additions to the state’s governing document, but its suggestions have to be approved by 60 percent of voters during the next statewide election.
When asked if he’ll authorize polling to know what will make the cut and what won’t, he said, “That’ll probably be part of the plan but I’m not sure.”
He quickly added with a laugh: “I’m not much on that stuff, though. I spent money on polling; I know how that works.” Beruff, a Republican, unsuccessfully challenged U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio in last year’s primary election.
He did announce the schedule for the first of a series of public hearings for ideas for amendments: Next Wednesday in Orange County, April 6 in Miami-Dade County, and April 7 in Palm Beach County. Times and exact locations are yet to be decided, he said.
Beruff also postponed a vote on the commission’s rules, including already contentious provisions on public records and open meetings.
The First Amendment Foundation (FAF), an open government watchdog, earlier Monday asked Beruff to apply open meeting standards to any meeting of commissioners, not just meetings of three or more.
The current draft rule tracks the Legislature’s rule that two people can meet without requiring notice and availability for public attendance.
Former Senate Democratic Leader Arthenia Joyner of Tampa, an appointee of Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, said she was concerned there was no provision for a vice-chair.
“There’s no continuity in the event that he, for some reason, cannot act,” she said of Beruff. “That affects how people feel about the integrity of the process.”
As governor, Scott chose 15 of the 37 commissioners, and selected the chairperson. Richard Corcoran, as House Speaker, got nine picks, as did Joe Negron as head of the Senate. Chief Justice Labarga is allotted three picks. Republican Pam Bondi is automatically a member as the state’s Attorney General.
The commission has met twice before, in 1977-78 and 1997-98, but this will be the first to have been selected by a majority of Republicans, virtually ensuring it will propose more conservative changes to the state’s governing document than previous panels.