Voters to decide fate of constitutional panel
Florida constitution.

Florida Constitution
'Our constitution is being diluted into the seventh volume of the Florida Statutes.'

The Legislature has approved a measure that could lead to abolishing the Constitution Revision Commission.

Both sides of the aisle agree the CRC need reform, but most Democrats held out on the 86-28 vote for a resolution (SJR 204) proposing a constitutional amendment to remove the commission.

The question is expected to appear before voters on the 2022 ballot. The public would need to approve it by a 60% vote.

St. Petersburg Sen. Jeff Brandes and Lithia Rep. Mike Beltran, both Republicans, shepherded the proposed amendment through the legislative process.

The CRC, created in 1968, meets every 20 years to propose changes to the Florida Constitution. The commission met for the first time from 1977 to 1978. It met most recently from 2017 to 2018.

It’s one of five methods to amend the Florida Constitution.

The commission, which Brandes has called an “abomination of a republic,” is largely made up of appointees chosen by the Governor, the Senate President, the House Speaker and the Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice. That opens the door to commissioners who are donors and beholden to their appointers rather than Floridians, if even at all.

Floridians have doubled the size of the Florida Constitution through amendments added since 1968. Beltran also noted it is five times longer than the United States Constitution, which governs 15 times as many people.

“The result is that our constitution is being diluted into the seventh volume of the Florida Statutes,” he added.

In 2018, when the CRC placed seven amendments on the ballot, lawmakers and observers were irked by “bundling” unrelated propositions in amendments. That year’s Amendment 9, which banned offshore drilling and vaping in indoor workplaces, was the most notable of the several odd combinations from the CRC. Voters passed that amendment with 69% approval, far exceeding the necessary 60% threshold to finalize constitutional amendments.

“Some of them were good policy, but they didn’t need to be in the Constitution,” Beltran said. “They were things that we could have done here in the House and could have done in the Senate, as we have been doing this Session, previous Sessions and Sessions to come.”

Both sides of the aisle, including Gov. Ron DeSantis, have criticized the bundling process. However, several Democrats’ criticisms end there, and they don’t want to cancel the commission altogether.

By a 27-12 vote last month, Republicans and Democratic Sens. Audrey GibsonJason Pizzo and Linda Stewart voted to pass the resolution.

Tuesday’s House vote on the proposed elimination of the commission came a day after lawmakers gave final approval to a bill (SB 1890) that would place a $3,000 cap on contributions to political committees trying to put citizens’ initiatives on the ballot. That bill, which will go to DeSantis, could thwart costly efforts to collect hundreds of thousands of petition signatures required to put initiatives on the ballot.

Republicans in recent years have promoted measures to limit the ways to amend the constitution. Those have included making it more difficult for the public to propose amendments through citizens’ initiatives, which DeSantis signed last year. An unsuccessful measure to require that the public approve an amendment twice failed to garner enough support at the ballot box.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.

One comment

  • JEC

    April 27, 2021 at 11:39 am

    Florida’s Legislature refuses to be beholden to the citizens. No surprise here.

    The Constitution SHOULD be revised every twenty years because the organic law of our state should grow and develop as our state and its people does. Its turned into a volume of Florida Statutes because YOU, the Legislators, are beholden to special interests – not the CRC.

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