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Constitutional Revision Commission was controversial last time around. The push to repeal it is renewed.

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House votes to nix controversial Constitution Revision Commission

The repeal push failed last year.

The controversial Constitution Revision Commission is one step closer to repeal.

On Wednesday, the House passed two bills poised to eliminate the appointed commission, despite Democratic qualms that the moves were a bridge too far.

HJR 301 and HB 303, filed by Rep. Brad Drake, respectively would repeal the CRC and remove statutory references.

HJR 301 passed 93-25. HB 303, a technical bill, passed 96-23.

Though the repeal bill passed the Senate last year by a 35-4 vote, it died without a full House hearing. That won’t be the case this year.

Drake commented on the esoteric nature of amendments in 2018, which confused voters because of concept combinations.

In 2018, the CRC irked lawmakers and observers by “bundling” unrelated propositions in amendments.

Amendment 9, which banned offshore drilling and vaping in indoor workplaces, was the most notable of the several odd combinations from the CRC.

“What does vaping have to do with offshore drilling,” Drake mused, noting that he came to find the CRC indefensible.

In a surprise given the incongruity of the propositions, nearly 69 percent of voters approved that amendment, even as editorial boards and others wondered why the two bans were yoked together.

“I promised that I would take that idea back to Tallahassee and work on it,” Drake said.

That process took two Sessions.

The 2019 Session saw high dudgeon from lawmakers; the 2020 Session, though the rhetoric is less white-hot on the issue, seems to promise resolution.

Gov. Ron DeSantis said at the end of the 2019 Session that he backed repeal, citing the bundling issue as a major source of irritation.

“I didn’t have enough bandwidth to propose it, but I would like to see the CRC eliminated,” DeSantis said. “I think what happened last election with some of those bundled amendments was not good.”

Ahead of votes, Democrats rehearsed qualms about the repeal.

Rep. Carlos Smith wondered why the move wasn’t to impose single-subject limitations or “many other reforms.”

Drake’s take: that the Legislature, not an appointed commission, is best suited to make policy.

Drake noted that without the CRC, citizens’ initiatives and legislative proposals would allow changes to the foundational document if needed.

Republicans, such as Rep. Rick Roth, had Drake’s back, noting that amendments are often too vague and that policy changes are best relegated to the Legislature.

In comments to media after the vote, Speaker Jose Oliva waxed philosophical about the process, with complaints more tailored to citizens’ initiatives than the CRC the House voted to whack.

“I do think that the process should be one that cannot be overrun by people that live outside our state and could be done in a way to manipulate things and to put things on the ballot. It’s oftentimes complex things. I mean, you see how long it takes to get something through here. You see how many times it changes. To put into your constitution a yes or no question, there might be some things that applies to, but for the very large part of them, it doesn’t,” Oliva said.

“So just like in campaign finance, we say you should only be able to get these amount of dollars and you have to raise from all of these different people. Maybe some of that should happen too in that process. I think that the ability for a millionaire or billionaire to basically — five or six million dollars — be able to put anything on a ballot in a state that they may not live in with signatures collected by people that may also not live here, I think that that begs the question of is the process being abused,” the Speaker added.

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A.G. Gancarski has been a correspondent for FloridaPolitics.com since 2014. In 2018, he was a finalist for an Association of Alternative Newsweeklies "best political column." He can be reached at AG@FloridaPolitics.com

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