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Jeff Brandes’ Constitution Revision Commission repeal clears second committee stop

A similar measure isn’t moving in the House.

Florida Sen. Jeff Brandeseffort to squash the Constitution Revision Commission has already cleared two of its three committee stops. The Senate Governmental Oversight and Accountability committee approved the measure unanimously among all members present.

The Constitution Revision Commission was established in 1968 to offer a way to revise the state constitution. It meets every twenty years to review the state’s constitution and consider changes. The group last met in 2017 and 2018 where it came out with several constitutional amendments to place on the 2018 ballot.

But lawmakers began criticizing the process after the commission placed seven amendments on the ballot. Several unrelated issues were “bundled” into one ballot measure, including combining a ban on offshore drilling with a ban on vaping in the workplace.

Brandes offered the same measure in the 2019 Legislative Session. The Senate approved the measure, but the House never put the matter up for a floor vote.

He said the commission has shifted away from its founding purpose and has instead become a partisan tool to take lawmaking power away from citizens and the legislature.

Brandes’ measure has broad bipartisan support. During Monday’s committee meeting, representatives from the AFL-CIO labor union, the progressive National Organization for Women and the conservative Americans For Prosperity all showed up to voice their support.

“You feel like you have your flanks covered,” Brandes remarked on the wide variety of supporters.

Only one person spoke against abolishing the commission. Mary Adkins is a Master Legal Skills professor at the University of Florida and has researched and written about Florida’s constitution.

“He felt there was a great need for the people to have another way of revising the constitution — a way that would be completely different where a group of people would be given one job and one job only,” Adkins said of the Constitution Revision Commission founder Chesterfield Smith.

Adkins acknowledged some of the bundling might have stretched the group’s intent.

“I don’t necessarily agree with all the decisions that were made,” she said.

But, responding to a comment from Brandes, said “lots of things can be used for ill we don’t get rid of them for that reason alone.”

The measure has just one committee stop remaining — Rules. A similar bill in the House (HB 301) was filed earlier this month but has not yet been referred to committees.

Janelle Irwin Taylor has been a professional journalist covering local news and politics in the Tampa Bay area since 2003. Most recently, Janelle reported for the Tampa Bay Business Journal. She formerly served as the sole staff reporter for WMNF News and previously covered news for and various local neighborhood newsletters. Her work has been featured in the New York Daily News, Free Speech Radio News and Florida Public Radio and she's been interviewed by radio stations across the nation for her coverage of the 2012 Republican National Convention. Janelle is a die-hard news junkie who isn't afraid to take on big names in local politics, including Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, the dirty business of trash and recycling in St. Pete and contentious issues surrounding transit. Her work as a reporter and radio host has earned her two WMNF awards including News Volunteer of the Year and Public Affairs Volunteer of the Year. Janelle is also a devoted wife and mother to three brilliant and beautiful daughters who are a constant source of inspiration and occasional blogging fodder.

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