FLORIDA'S 2017-2018 CONSTITUTION REVISION: It's Your Turn to Decide.

AuthorAdkins, Mary E.
PositionThird Florida Constitution Revision Commission Proposals - Cover story

Thirty-seven Floridians, including 21 law school graduates, completed a task this past May that was awesome in the original meaning of the word. Thirty-seven people who were living their lives, perhaps being public servants for a living, perhaps serving the state in other ways, were chosen for a task that arises only once every 20 years: the nation's only regularly recurring Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). They had only a few requirements: convene, adopt rules, examine the constitution, hold public hearings, and forward any proposed changes to the custodian of state records 180 days before the next general election. (1) Their deliberations resulted in eight proposals to amend the Florida Constitution. The Florida electorate will vote on these proposals in the November 2018 general election.

When the Florida Constitution was drafted in 1966 by a statutorily created revision commission chaired by then-recent Florida Bar President Chesterfield Smith, Smith and fellow member Robert Ervin both stated they wanted citizens to have the power to amend their constitution. (2) They saw to it that Florida's new constitution would be malleable. Think for a moment what it might be like if the U.S. Constitution were subject to a limitless revision every 20 years. We citizens might feel the ground go soft beneath our feet; but in Florida, such a revision--or, at least, the potential for one--happens every 20 years.

The third CRC under Florida's 1968 Constitution convened between March 2017 and May 2018. The composition of this CRC was markedly more diverse than the 1966 Commission, which was composed of 36 white men and one white woman. (3) Each CRC has been more demographically diverse than the last, with the most recent having 15 women, six Hispanics, and six African-Americans.

This CRC was also more "Republican" than the last two, a reflection of the politics of the times in Florida. The 1977-78 CRC, chaired by Talbot "Sandy" D'Alemberte, was dominated by Democrats, as each of the appointing authorities elected in a partisan election remained Democrat; (4) by the same measure, the 1997-98 CRC, chaired by Dexter Douglass, was nearly evenly balanced between the parties; (5) and most members of this most recent CRC, chaired by Carlos Beruff, were appointed by Republican officials. (6) This CRC was the first chaired by a Latino, and this CRC was the first, remarkably, in which the appointing governor was not a member of the 1966 CRC that created our...

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