Lawmakers are seeking to eliminate an avenue for adding amendments to the Florida Constitution by putting an amendment on the next ballot.
Resolutions in both the House and Senate would ask Florida voters if they want to abolish the Constitutional Revision Commission.
The House Judiciary Committee voted 16-4 in favor of the resolution (HJR 1179) Monday. It’s now ready for the House floor.
The CRC was established in 1968. Members meet once every 20 years to determine amendments for Florida voters to consider. The commission explores constitutional provisions that may be ripe for undoing.
Rep. Mike Beltran is leading the charge against the CRC in the House. Beltran, like others, criticized the commission for “compounding,” or bundling unrelated propositions in one amendment.
“They’re responsible for that compounding in 2018 that we all saw,” Beltran said.
The CRC had seven constitutional amendments on the ballot in 2018. Five of the amendments were bundled. Amendment 11 repealed both a prohibition against undocumented immigrants owning property and a requirement for a high-speed ground transportation project. Amendment 9 bundled offshore oil and gas drilling and vaping indoors at work in one of the most egregious bundling examples.
St. Petersburg Rep. Ben Diamond voted against this House Resolution but agreed the bundling should be stopped.
“What happened in this last meeting was tremendously disappointing and upsetting to Floridians with the bundling,” Diamond said. “What I believe we need to do is make it clear that the commission is prohibited from doing that bundling.”
Diamond said he favors reform over repeal, similar to a Senate resolution (SJR 176) filed in 2020 that limited each proposal to a single subject. That resolution did not make it out of the committee process.
Beltran also said the CRC amendment process is too far removed from the people compared to other amendment processes.
The CRC is one of only five ways to put amendments on the ballot. The other ways include through the Legislature, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission, a citizen initiative, or a constitutional convention.
“Every other method other than Tax and Budget Commission allows direct participation either by electing a legislator who propose amendments and then the populace votes on it or through direct ballot petitions, which require signatures. So, this removes the amendment process the most from the people,” Beltran said.
The commission’s 37 members include the Attorney General and appointees by the Governor, House Speaker, Senate President and Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court.
But Diamond said the CRC is needed to keep up with an evolving state.
“The point of the Constitutional Revision Commission is supposed to be a way for us to get the best minds in the state together every 20 years and make sure that our most foundational document is still working for Floridians,” Diamond said.
A Senate resolution passed the Senate last Thursday 27-12. Sen. Jeff Brandes is the sponsor of that resolution.
Three-fifths of the House members need to vote in favor of the resolution for it to appear on the next General Election ballot. Once on the ballot, the amendment requires at least 60% voter approval for passage.