The 2018 Constitution Revision Commission, also known simply as the “CRC,” recently completed the once in every 20-year task of reviewing our state constitution.
The purpose of the review is to ensure that our governing document reflects the values of our modern society and meets the needs of our growing state.
The CRC finalized eight proposed amendments, some of which are “grouped,” meaning multiple ideas are included in one single amendment. These amendments were based on more than a year’s worth of work, by 37 volunteer commissioners, traveling across the state, hosting 15 public hearings, dozens more committee meetings, consulting subject matter experts, and considering hundreds of thousands of comments from citizens.
Unfortunately, instead of debating merits of the policy, some editorial boards have offered sarcasm and ignored facts.
They have indicted the practice of grouping related proposals into single amendments for the ballot yet omitted the reality that grouping some ideas which share common elements is for the benefit of the voter.
According to election officials, long ballots create a disincentive to voting in the first place.
Grouping some ideas together keeps the ballot from becoming too lengthy to complete. If all of the CRC proposals were left as single amendments, there would be 25 questions on the ballot instead of 13; and in some areas of our state, each of those measures would be translated into multiple languages.
Further, not grouping ideas would have abandoned every precedent we have. Both previous Constitution Revision Commissions, in 1978 and in 1998, grouped ideas and did so with more regularity than we did. Indeed, in 1968 the voters of Florida ratified an entirely new constitution which was “bundled,” aka grouped into three, yes only three, ballot amendments. Grouping is not new and not controversial.
Bold ideas are often met with criticism and I support the ability of the media and others to voice their disagreement. However, categorically condemning a historically proven and successful process by omitting facts which are contrary to the desired effect is disingenuous.
If traditional media outlets have any desire to regain the public’s trust, if in news or in opinion, they need to be less selective with information and more honest with their arguments.
Here is the truth: the CRC sent to voters a package of transformational ideas in the form of eight proposed amendments to our Constitution, some grouped, some not. These ideas cover a lot of ground and include wildly popular proposals like sweeping ethics reforms, term limits for school board members, rights for crime victims, a ban on offshore oil drilling, banning the use of e-cigarettes in enclosed indoor workplaces, and ending the inhumane racing of greyhounds for betting purposes.
The ballot language of these proposals is clear and easily understood. Voters are exceedingly smart and will decide how they want their Florida to look for generations to come. In the end, they alone will be the judge of our work.
Brecht Heuchan is a member of the 2018 Constitution Revision Commission.