Tiger Bay puts CRC officers on hot seat over bundling ‘poison pills’ and ‘SweeTARTs’

Susan MacManus, Jeanette Nunez, Frank Kruppenbacher, Brecht Heuchan

Are Tiger Bay Club members regular people, or are they the kinds of Tallahassee insiders that Brecht Heuchan dismissed as the only people who really care that voters will be asked to consider multiple Florida Constitution amendments bundled together in multi-change proposals?

If the members of the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida reflect the views of regular people, then the eight proposals the Florida Constitution Revision Commission put on the November ballot last month could be in trouble.

After Heuchan, Frank Kruppenbacher and state Rep. Jeanette Nuñez defended the commission’s decision to bundle multiple law changes into single amendment proposals, the members of the Tiger Bay Club of Central Florida largely rejected their explanations at a forum held Wednesday in Orlando.

“I think everyone in this room understands that the rationales of lengthy ballots and voter fatigue are bull,” said Jason Johnson, a lawyer and past president of the club.

“Your argument that someone’s poison pill is another person’s SweeTART is making the point, for people who are against grouping, that you’re just doing it to get poison pills passed by getting people to vote for the SweeTARTs,” he continued. “Why not just separate them all and let the chips fall where they may?”

Heuchan, who was the architect of efforts to combine law changes into single proposals, expressed strong disagreement with Johnson’s premise, and argued again that separating everything out, creating a situation that could put 25 or so constitution amendments on the ballot, “would be a problem to half the people in the room.”

Moderator Susan MacManus, a now-retired political scientist from the University of South Florida, decided to test that assumption, and asked for shows of hands for those who opposed bundling, versus those who agreed with the CRC’s bundling strategy to make sure the November ballot isn’t ridiculously long.

It wasn’t a pretty result for Heuchan, Kruppenbacher and Nuñez. Conservatively, 90 percent of the hands shot up in favor of separating individual changes, and maybe 10 percent favored “keeping them grouped.”

This was after an hour-long panel discussion which focused largely on the trio of commissioners explaining why they chose to bundle the proposals, fending off, or, in some situations agreeing with the assessment that some ballot proposals included what MacManus characterized  as “SweeTARTs” and “poison pills,” professing how much politics went into the process.

Some of the audience, 150 strong, also expressed dismay when the three commissioners declared confidence that the final result, the eight proposals sent to the ballot, showed that the CRC was largely able to fend off partisan politics this year. “Do you find anything in here that is highly partisan?” Heuchan rhetorically asked the audience, forgetting, for a moment, the old saw about never asking a question to which you don’t know the answer.

“Yes!” someone shouted from the back of the room, drawing applause and laughter.

Not everything the trio described was rosy about the commission’s year-long effort to come up with proposed amendments to the constitution, something that is done every 20 years in Florida.

Kruppenbacher, in particular, expressed frank criticisms of some of the activities and actions of the commission, and those seeking to influence it, saying there were too many instances when special interest groups and, in his words, “Republican lobbyists,” tried to push legislation on the CRC.

Nuñez, the Republican Speaker pro tempore from Miami, also expressed criticism that too many times the CRC was asked to consider proposals that should have been left to the Florida Legislature.

On the other hand, Kruppenbacher, a lawyer and Republican fundraiser who chairs the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, also expressed dismay that the commission refused to have any discussions about amendments regarding guns, which had become a huge issue at all the CRC hearings following the Feb. 14 mass murder at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland.

Responding to a question from Orlando’s Democratic state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, perhaps the strongest advocate of gun law reforms in the legislature, Kruppenbacher said he was frustrated when the CRC rules committee ruled the guns issue was not germane.

“It is incomprehensible to me that we do not at least talk about guns, particularly when we sat in Saint Petersburg and watched, and I heard the father of the Parkland girl talk to us about his daughter,” he said.

Scott Powers

Scott Powers is an Orlando-based political journalist with 30+ years’ experience, mostly at newspapers such as the Orlando Sentinel and the Columbus Dispatch. He covers local, state and federal politics and space news across much of Central Florida. His career earned numerous journalism awards for stories ranging from the Space Shuttle Columbia disaster to presidential elections to misplaced nuclear waste. He and his wife Connie have three grown children. Besides them, he’s into mystery and suspense books and movies, rock, blues, basketball, baseball, writing unpublished novels, and being amused. Email him at scott@floridapolitics.com.


5 comments

  • Larry Gillis (Cape Coral)

    May 9, 2018 at 3:45 pm

    “Poison pill”? That is an interesting concept and a snappy sound bite, for sure, but the underlying analysis simply was not there to support it. Try again.

    One of my favorite proposals before the CRC got tied to a sinker that way, but I did not pick up on any bad faith in the process. To tell the truth, I’d be deeply irritated at any bad faith, but I don’t see it.

  • Steve Hough

    May 9, 2018 at 3:53 pm

    It was pretty clear that the majority of the commission just wanted to wrap it up as fast as possible.

    No proposals tabled in committee were clawed back before voting on which ones would go to the Style and Drafting. Committee. After the work of Style and Drafting was complete, the full commission completed a week’s work in a single day.

    Unfortunately, I must agree that the proposals floated as amendments to P 3 were not germane. Advocates for a constitutional amendment related to firearms had twelve months to make their case. Unlike those of us who were in the mix the entire time fighting for open primaries (2nd most popular issue), these folks were simply just too late to the party. However, just like us, they will continue to take their case to the people!

  • Mary Jo Pezzi

    May 9, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    It will be another 20 years before the CRC meets again to consider needed amendments to push the state of Florida forward. And what have they accomplished via this “nonpartisan” process? NOTHING! The topics discussed most at multiple public forums were not even considered! My hope was that Florida’s CRC would allow the voters to decide on Open Primary elections that do not suppress the votes of anyone not willing to affiliate with a party in order to vote for a candidate, based on issues, not based on party loyalty.

    • Steve Hough

      May 9, 2018 at 5:18 pm

      “My hope was that Florida’s CRC would allow the voters to decide on Open Primary elections that do not suppress the votes of anyone not willing to affiliate with a party in order to vote for a candidate, based on issues, not based on party loyalty.”

      Me too, but it didn’t work out that way. Was the “listening tour” just for show? I think many are wondering why they wasted everyone’s time.

  • Mary Jo Pezzi

    May 9, 2018 at 8:01 pm

    Exactly! So many people took time off from work and/or drove to these public events – or wrote to the commissioners – about important issues like open primaries; and also a fair process for restoring the voting rights of people, who have gone through the legal system. Instead we get proposed amendments “bundled” together to ensure they will lose, or disappoint!

Comments are closed.


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