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Constitution Revision Commission in Jacksonville: 37 proposals, 200+ speakers

The Constitution Revision Commission came to Jacksonville Tuesday for a marathon public hearing on the 37 proposals that are still live.

And some that weren’t, such as Proposal 22, perceived as an affront on abortion rights, and Proposal 62, which would allow for people to vote in primaries regardless of party identification. The green cards of support outweighed the red cards by a factor of 20.

“There are 3.4 million Floridians whose right to vote is denied,” said Jackie Bowman of St. Augustine on Proposal 62. “To me this looks like taxation without representation.”

Jackie Rock, a mosquito control commissioner from St. Johns County, bridged from closed primaries to consequences, noting that the Legislature did not pass a assault weapon ban, eliciting a gasp from the crowd.

The same held true for a non-existent proposal to ban assault weapons. Anytime a speaker sounded that theme, the green cards flapped.

If there was a leit motif to the six-hour meeting, it was a distinct lack of enthusiasm for proposals. The speakers by and large were respectful, the pyrotechnics of the Melbourne meeting on Monday largely absent.

Proposals 4 and 45, which would route public money to churches and private schools respectively, were denounced as a subversion of religious freedom via the no-aid clause by some speakers … and an expansion of religious freedom by others. (One man, claiming to be a preacher for the “Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster,” quipped that Proposal 4 would allow him to use state money to proselytize).

Linda Mann of the League of Women Voters opposed these and other proposals, including Proposal 43 (term limits for school boards), 71 (removing control of charters from school boards), and 72 (a supermajority vote for tax hikes), which she believes would erode public education.

Proposals 43 and 33 (an appointed school superintendent) were objected to by Danny Glover, School Superintendent of Taylor County. Gayle Cook, a School Board member from Nassau County, likewise spoke against those proposals.

Mann also, as was the case in Melbourne with the LVW rep there, called for an assault weapon ban in the Constitution. Green cards fluttered in the air.

Proposal 55 was lauded by Clay County Clerk of Courts Tara Green and Putnam County Clerk of Courts Tim Smith, who noted that traffic revenues are down, and the Legislature should make up the shortfall so that clerks of court can function.

Proposal 54, which removes Certificates of Need for certain health care facilities, saw numerous speakers seek to remove hospices from deregulation. Multiple representatives of St. Vincent’s Health Care went further, saying that the entire proposal shouldn’t be on the ballot.

Both panned and lauded: Proposal 88, the so called Nursing Home Bill of Rights. Former State Rep. Janet Adkins, who owns a facility, noted that if this passes, patients will move to unlicensed homes and insurance companies will make coverage more expensive and more difficult to get.

Late in the afternoon, multiple speakers broke down in tears, describing their own experiences with nursing homes. One speaker described her mother being dropped, and her hip broken.

“She began dying right then,” the speaker said of the fall.

Another described a grandmother who fell out of bed, lying in a pool of blood.

Greyhound racing was a hot talker also; Proposal 67 would ban betting on dog races.

“Racing dogs die,” said one speaker. Another speaker called it an “abusive and inhumane blood sport,” one with dwindling popularity. Still another said it more bluntly: “retire the greyhounds.”

A number of speakers, many of them from the business, counteracted these narratives, explaining how they take care of the dogs.

If 67 passed, one dog kennel owner said, “it would be a Holocaust for the dogs.”

Another gentleman talked about his seven-year-old rescue greyhound, Gus Gus, and his voice crackled with emotion as he said he couldn’t imagine what they are going through.

Also panned by multiple speakers: Proposal 94, which would move “Tobacco Free Florida” smoking cessation marketing funds to cancer research.

Proposal 96, a victims’ rights amendment, was described by Jacksonville lawyer Gray Thomas as a “solution in search of a problem” given that victims’ rights are already protected in Florida law.

The best laugh line of the afternoon: support for a proposal to ban offshore drilling.

The speaker, Jordan Bebout, was worried about the panel not getting the potential consequences; she told the committee “you may not be here in 20 years.”

And everyone in the room, on the panel and in the crowd alike, laughed aloud.

Written By

A.G. Gancarski has been a working journalist for over two decades, with bylines in national and local publications alike on subjects ranging from pop music to national and global politics. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014, and has held a column in Jacksonville, Florida's Folio Weekly for two decades. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." Gancarski is a frequent presence on Jacksonville television and radio, including fill-in slots on WJCT-FM's award-winning talk show "First Coast Connect." He can be reached at a.g.gancarski@gmail.com.

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