With a series of public meetings already completed, it’s fair to say Constitution Revision Commission has started off as a bit of a mess.
As described by the state maintained website, this is what the CRC is meant to do and who the commissioners are:
The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) is composed of the Attorney General, fifteen appointees from the Governor, nine appointees from the Florida Senate President, nine appointees from the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives and three appointees from the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. The CRC meets for approximately one year, holding public hearings, examining the Florida Constitution, identifying issues, performing research and possibly recommending changes to the Florida Constitution. Any amendments proposed by the CRC would be placed on the 2018 General Election ballot. Any amendments placed on the ballot by the CRC would have to secure 60 percent approval by voters to be added to the Florida Constitution.
Which is to say, the CRC that is convened every 20 years, has quite the undertaking. And while powerful, it hands that power to the people of Florida.
“I believe this is a great process. It literally puts the Florida Constitution in the hands of the people of Florida, where it belongs,” says former lawmaker Ron Silver of Miami. “But it needs to be watch carefully by the citizens. I encourage everyone in Florida to pay attention and to communicate with the commissioners.”
Despite 20 years to prepare, as of June 6, the CRC had NOT adopted rules for the CRC, despite holding public meetings to receive input from citizens.
Why had the rules not been adopted? Watching the meetings, it’s clear, there is a power struggle.
The June 6th Orlando meeting included what can be described as pleading from some commissioners to others, to please, work together. Other times, frustrations were verbalized.
“It seems like we have rules when some people like them, but we don’t have rules when some people don’t like them,” snapped Bob Solari, an Indian River County commissioner. “If I was watching this from the public, I would be incredibly depressed and dismayed.”
Before the first commission meeting last March, CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff, did attempt to have rules in place. The main difference from those proposed rules from what was used the last time the CRC convened in 1997-98, is that the chairman would have a lot more power. The rules proposed by Beruff would give him the final say as to what made it to the ballot for the people to vote on.
That set of proposed rules were rejected by the other commissioners. Quickly.
A six member sub-panel was then created, selected by each of the appointing officers. This sub-panel was tasked with creating the new rules for the whole CRC. Nothing was accomplished.
Beruff decided the whole CRC would hash it out at the June 6th meeting in Orlando.
Beruff wrote the commissioners: “In light of the extensive time required by the working group to continue its work and the likelihood that much of their discussion will need to be reiterated with the full Commission, I think you will agree that consensus on Rules must be achieved on an expedited timeline to ensure we can continue our very important commitment to Floridians.”
A House Speaker Richard Corcoran appointee, Sen. Tom Lee filed an amendment to adopt the rules of the 1997-98 commission, which is essentially what was finally decided during the June 6th Orlando meeting.
Other changes Beruff was seeking included a provision that would allow him to reject proposals from other members. He also wanted sole authority to assign proposals would be referred to which CRC committees.
Watching the last meeting, citizens may wonder “why bother with this process?”
“I would say it’s very important to the state, critical even,” says Silver. “For instance, think about security. So much has changed in the nation and Florida. The CRC can review our security laws and propose changes for the people decide by putting the issue on the ballot. It’s the people of Florida who make the final decision.”