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Repeal of Constitution Revision Commission headed to House floor

Voters could weigh in on repeal in 2020.

The Constitution Revision Commission upset many lawmakers by placing policy issues on the ballot. Now the policymakers seem ready to put the commission’s very existence before voters.

The Florida House Judiciary Committee voted in favor of legislation (HJR 249) to ask voters about eliminating the commission.

“They have gotten off course,” said state Rep. Brad Drake.

The legislation now heads to a full House vote. Companion Senate legislation (SJR 362) has advanced through two committees unanimously and awaits a vote by the Rules committee.

The question could be put in front of voters in the 2020 general election.

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Of course, it’s the positing of too many questions that’s driving concerns about the commission forward.

The DeFuniak Springs Republican said the CRC that last year placed a number of measures before voters overstepped its bounds.

“Our job is to make policy changes,” Drake said. “When it comes to structuring government, that’s most appropriate in the state and federal constitution.”

He called the last CRC a “crony commission” of political appointments often acting as proxies for elected officials who named them to the board.

Beyond just wading into policy, he also trashed decisions by the commission to bundle amendments.

Drake said after a conversation with a UPS driver about the ridiculous combination of issues on the ballot, he sought the commission’s repeal.

The most talked about item from the 2018 election was a measure passed that bans vaping in public spaces and offshore drilling.

House Judiciary members seemed universally critical of those measures, though there was dissent on when destroying the CRC was a reasoned response.

State Rep. James Grant, a Tampa Republican, said it may be more appropriate to but more restrictions on the body. He noted the CRC gets tasked in the constitution with editing and revising the constitution.

“It has far exceeded that power,” Grant said. “It does not have the power to put a new amendment on the ballot.”

He said limiting what the board does will be more important.

“If we cannot hold them to the confines they have with something significant as the constitution, I don’t know what we are doing here,” he said.

State Rep. Ben Diamond, a St. Petersburg Democrat, said while the most recent CRC didn’t live up to its expectations, he thinks full repeal goes too far.

“It provides a forum to think about the big questions in terms of state government,” he said.

But other members said the board was one of five ways to put constitutional amendments on the ballot. For some, any reduction in avenues will be beneficial.

State Rep. Mike Beltran said while the U.S. constitution fits it a pocket brochure, the state constitution has grown bloated. The CRC added to that problem.

“The Florida Constitution has become the seventh volume of Florida statutes, and that’s not appropriate,” he said.

The CRC gets appointed and meets once every 20 years.

Drake said the commission could have revisited questionable amendments like the infamous pregnant pig protections. Instead, they ventured into policy. That shows the board has outlived its usefulness, he said.

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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