Spencer Roach says it’s time the Legislature write a new Florida Constitution
Spencer Roach praises an elected Lee County Schools Superintendent.

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Any such governing document would ultimately need to be approved by voters.

Rep. Spencer Roach says it’s time for Florida to adopt an entirely new state constitution.

The North Fort Myers Republican participated in a legislative update last week with the Real Estate Investment Society (REIS) in Lee County. There, he proposed beginning the process of adopting a seventh constitution.

He suggested the number of times the current Florida Constitution has been changed since its adoption in 1968 shows the need to start fresh.

“It’s time,” he said. “The Florida Constitution has been amended 144 times in 55 years — that’s an average of five amendments every election cycle. Contrast that with the U.S. Constitution, which has only been amended 27 times in 235 years. To me, that indicates a deeply flawed document that has served its purpose but is in desperate need of revision.”

Of note, the current constitution has stood longer than many that preceded it. Florida’s first formal constitution was approved by Florida voters in 1838, according to Florida State University records. That lasted until Florida seceded from the Union in 1861 and adopted a new constitution under the Confederacy.

That document was annulled after the Civil War by President Andrew Johnson, when a third constitution was imposed. Florida adopted a fourth constitution during Reconstruction in 1868 that largely replaced many elected offices with appointed ones.

In 1885, Florida adopted a constitution that remains the longest lasting one in state history. That restored many elected offices but limited terms, and it allowed for multimember districts in the Legislature. That document lasted 83 years.

But in the wake of the Civil Rights movement, the state adopted a new constitution in 1968 that remains in effect today.

Roach, though, said the document has run its course. He first publicly called for a rewrite earlier this month on Twitter. After Secretary of State Cord Byrd posted a link to Florida’s original constitution in the state archives, Roach suggested that’s where Florida’s existing constitution should also be filed.

“It’s time for the 1968 constitution to join the original in the archives,” Roach posted. “We need a complete rewrite of the Florida Constitution.”

But what would the consequences of a rewrite be?

Roach said the Republican Legislature would be wise to start a rewrite of the constitution while the party holds historic caucuses in the House and Senate. But he notes anything will ultimately have to be approved through a statewide vote.

“Yes, it will be controversial, but we have a supermajority and we need to act now,” Roach said.

“Besides, any new constitution will have to be ratified by the voters, and if they disapprove it, we are back to the status quo — so we have nothing to lose by trying to improve the document. Things like term limits and setting boundaries on executive powers should be in the constitution, and I also think we need to revisit the structure of the Florida Legislature.”

But what of those amendments approved by voters over the past half century?

Roach told Florida Politics the new constitution may or may not include some or all the amendments previously approved by voters. Regardless, he believes implementing legislation enacting past amendments would remain in place unless the Florida Legislature repealed it.

But anything in the current constitution that’s left out of a new one would be null and void. That means the Legislature could repeal laws it was required to pass because it was mandated by the old constitution to do so, if that language isn’t in a new document.

Lawmakers have often expressed frustration with amendments to the constitution. The Legislature proposed an amendment on the 2022 statewide ballot to get rid of the Constitution Revision Commission, though that failed.

But the Legislature has enacted numerous restrictions on citizen-led efforts to change the constitution, a process that now requires a 60% supermajority of voters to support a measure on the statewide ballot.

Roach, for his part, believes he can sell leadership in the Legislature on undertaking the process of rewriting a constitution. He joked to REIS attendees he will simply personalize a pitch to House Speaker Paul Renner.

“I’ll simply ask him to imagine that for the next 100 years, Florida citizens would refer to their governing document as ‘the Renner Constitution.’”

Jacob Ogles

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at [email protected].


18 comments

  • DeSantis is an unwoke loser

    June 19, 2023 at 10:36 am

    maybe it should be rewritten, but it should never be rewritten under the authoritarian rule of DeSantis and his sycophant legislators. They have destroyed Florida. It’s going to require a good balance of legislators polls Republicans, Democrats and independence in order to bring Florida back and make it one of the best states in the country. Right now Florida is hanging in at about 50th in several categories an average and others

    • H Miner

      June 19, 2023 at 12:49 pm

      AS long as the GOP is in charge it will be a waste of time and money. It will never pass.

      • nail morse

        June 20, 2023 at 11:11 am

        DeSantis will wait until he has the blessing of the White supremist and the white nationals. Nothing happens in Florida unless his new leaders want it.

  • Bob Schmidt

    June 19, 2023 at 11:32 am

    Here’s some other things it’s time to consider doing in Florida.
    1. Move the state capitol out of Tallahassee closer to more people of Florida. Either the population center of the state (Osceola county) or the geographic center of the state (Polk county).
    2. De-annex the sh*thole counties that have governments that can’t pay their own bills (“fiscally constrained”) and sell them to GA or AL or any other state that wants them.
    3. Split the state into 4 separate states (NW, Central/NE, SW, SE).

    • Dont SayFLA

      June 20, 2023 at 2:24 pm

      I say let Disney govern the whole state of Florida. Disney brought its area of the state to unimaginable heights while the rest of Florida turned into an unshaven, unwashened armpit.

  • David

    June 19, 2023 at 2:58 pm

    Why bother? It isn’t as if the legislature or governor pay attention to the state constitution, or the federal constitution for that matter, or the will of the people of Florida anyway.

  • Jonathan Swift

    June 19, 2023 at 3:13 pm

    The number of amendments in the current FL Constitution is irrelevant in deciding to replace it. It just means it is easy to amend. It was really too easy when the threshold was greater than 50%. I’d voted to change from 60% to 66.67%.

  • Pauline

    June 19, 2023 at 4:51 pm

    They want to change the constitution….They the Rep majority have already given DeSantis everything he wants, which has discriminated against people of color, and immigrants. I can only imagine what a changed constitution would look like, it would be the full 100% legal emergence of Jim Crow.

    • Dont Say FLA

      June 20, 2023 at 2:25 pm

      It would just be the stupid Ten Commandments nonsense from that Qristian book of fables

  • Bill Pollard

    June 19, 2023 at 6:37 pm

    We would get an extremist right wing constitution if it was rewritten now. It would at some point be thrown out as unconstitutional.

  • Paul Vincent Mellini

    June 20, 2023 at 8:28 am

    The autocracy in this state as a result of the super majority is frightening. I am sure the “new” constitution if written by Republicans will :
    1. Have a theocratic trend
    2. A book ban even worse than now
    3. Continued Suppression of voters, especially students and minorities
    4. Even worse management oof women’s lives and healthcare
    5. Create a pollution friendly environment

    • Don't say "pollution friendly environment" FLA

      June 20, 2023 at 2:27 pm

      Don’t just come out and say pollution friendly environment! You gotta use the code word. It’s a “BUSINESS” friendly environment.

  • Travis

    June 20, 2023 at 10:29 am

    Spencer Roach of Louisiana might be interested in knowing that his native State’s Constitution has amended their constitution 300 times since it was adopted in 1974. This is nothing more than a GOP power grab after they couldn’t take the convention out of the Constitution in the last election.

  • tom palmer

    June 20, 2023 at 12:47 pm

    This could be troubling for Florida residents. This is just one guy. so it is unclear from article how persuasive he would be to enact such a major change. btw, a Republican won the governor’s election in 1968, but he was not some lightweight like DeSantis. Florida voters need to watch this.

  • tom palmer

    June 20, 2023 at 12:49 pm

    Correction: Kirk was already governor in 1968

  • Joe

    June 20, 2023 at 4:03 pm

    Re-writing the constitution is an inevitable next step for aspiring fascist parties everywhere. Spencer is a literal cockroach.

  • Jenn

    June 20, 2023 at 11:17 pm

    Right. Because it’s axiomatic that every Republican should want to empower a government that exerts more control over the people than what our Constitution already contemplates.

    Oh, wait….

  • Kelly A Quinn

    June 21, 2023 at 11:07 pm

    In this age of everything that disagrees with the woke being racist, it is time we take a stand. Write in to the constitution that any party that pushed to sustain slavery can not be represented or included in any Florida election.

Comments are closed.


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