Florida Bar aims to engage Floridians in constitutional review

Constitution Revision Commission

With most Floridians not knowing what the Constitution Revision Commission is or does, The Florida Bar is trying to change that.

The Bar launched “Protect Florida Democracy: Our Constitution, Our Rights, Our Courts,” a statewide public education program to fill the void in Floridians’ awareness of constitution revision and engage Floridians in this critical process, according to a news release.

“Florida’s constitution determines how much power we the citizens give to our state government and what form that takes,” said Michael J. Higer, president of The Florida Bar. “It is therefore important that we all tune in, stay informed and educated as to any process to amend Florida’s Constitution.

“It is critical we stay engaged to make sure that we exercise great caution as to any proposed amendment.”

Here’s the rest of the release:

A recent independent survey by Breakthrough Research found that 8 in 10 Floridians had never even heard of the Constitution Revision Commission.

Of the few who had heard of the CRC, 1 in 3 wrongly identified its role, which spurred the Bar to create the Protect Florida Democracy public education program. The survey collected responses from a representative sample of about 800 Florida voters.

While 44 percent of voters surveyed identified the Florida Constitution as “the people’s contract with their government,” the survey revealed confusion about the roles of the branches of government, with 71 percent failing to identify the executive branch as the branch that carries out and enforces laws (57 percent said judicial, 10 percent said legislative, and 4 percent said they didn’t know).

“As citizens consider the merits of proposed constitutional amendments, they should think about any unintended consequences. Maintaining the equality of our three branches of government, including the judiciary, is fundamental and sacrosanct. This is a bedrock principle that safeguards us all,” Higer said. “The Bar’s Protect Florida Democracy initiative is an important educational effort to help every citizen understand that the constitution should not be amended without careful thought.”

The survey does indicate that Floridians understand the importance of the separation of powers. A total of 93 percent said they consider the separation of powers very important and 96 percent expressed concern about any attempt to give one branch of government more power than another.

The Bar intends to engage Floridians in Protect Florida Democracy through an informational website, weekly newsletter, statewide speakers bureau and engaging social media campaign.

Besides educating the public, the Bar also has created a special committee to provide technical legal assistance to the CRC upon request.

The CRC meets every 20 years to review and revise the Florida Constitution. It is the only method by which amendments affecting the full scope of Florida’s Constitution may be put on the General Election ballot without review by the legislative, judicial or executive branches.

The commission convened in May and traveled the state on a listening tour to hear residents’ thoughts and ideas about proposals to revise the Florida Constitution. All proposed amendments by the CRC are due to be filed by May 10, 2018. Protect Florida Democracy will remain active throughout the duration of this period, providing information and updates to Florida residents.

Staff Reports


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