Florida Constitutional Amendments: The Stacked Deck

By R. Lombardi

You and your partner with another couple are going clubbing.  Three of you want to go to “Love-It” and your partner wants only to go to “F-It”.  Knowing he is out-voted, he proposes, either we go to both, or I won’t join. The spoiler.  By forcing the choice that none of the others want, an All or Nothing demand is enforced against the majority.  Welcome to Florida’s Constitution Revision Committee, the CRC.

This committee puts constitutional amendments on the ballot and purports/claims Florida as “the only state in the nation that offers this unique process with high-level input from citizens.”  The question is “high level of input.” While it is true they roam the state for citizen and community input, you would need to expend considerable time understanding how they get proposals to the ballot.  You would have to read the minutes of all their meetings to understand how they “culled” and bundled citizens’ wishes to see how their final recommendations are reached and approved by 50 % of the committee.

This year’s CRC has proposed 8 Amendments, some bundled, some not.  One bundling is to prohibit off-shore drilling AND prohibit vaping in enclosed indoor workplaces.  You must vote yes for BOTH prohibitions or no for NEITHER. What one has to do with the other is beyond me.  Additionally, I find such Amendments to a Constitution perplexing. Such issues should be handled by the legislative process, not by something so fundamental like a Constitutional Amendment.  Welcome to Florida! Another bundling concerns the Rights of Crime Victims AND to increase the age a judge may serve. Again you vote for BOTH or NEITHER, leaving one to wonder what one has to do with the other.

The Power of the CRC to determine what is relevant from citizen’s input and bundling of non-related issues is a manipulation of the public will.  The only remedy at this moment is public referendums. Although I first thought this was the main problem, my research into the CRC revealed a more serious concern.

The CRC is composed of the Attorney General, 15 Governor, 9 Senate, 9 House of Representatives and 3 Chief Justice Appointees.  It meets every 20 years to keep the Constitution in step with the times. The Governor chooses the Chairman. This gives the Governor 15 of 37 votes in the CRC.  He only would need to influence 4 of 22 others for a majority vote; which, is easily achieved. The question is WHY does the Executive have so much power in a Legislative process?  Bundling voter input is bad enough; but, Executive control over a Legislative process is just out-right “stacking the deck” for the Governor. In essence, the Governor gets to put Constitutional Amendments on the ballot and the CRC gets to “spoil” voter wishes.  The Governor forces you to go to the F-U Club and the CRC forces the all or nothing demand to go to the F-It club.

It is acceptable that the Executive have input to the Legislative process; but, NOT control.  Any executive either knows this or will learn it. Those in power do not voluntarily give it up.  So, the one way citizens can take back their Constitutional Amendment power from the Governor in Florida is a referendum of the nature: The Governor may not appoint any voting member of the CRC; but, may appoint a consultant.  To handle the bundling problem I suggest an Amendment that the CRC may NOT bundle proposed Amendments. Each issue should demand a single Amendment proposal, not an Amendment proposal covering many issues.

Only 6 of the Governor’s 15 Appointees are women, 40%.  Of the 37 members of the CRC, 15 are women, also 40 %. Do not wonder then why Women’s Issues rarely make it to this Constitutional Amendment process called the CRC.  If you want Women’s Rights IN the Constitution, let the CRC appoint its’ own Chairman, get the Governor OUT of the process, and forbid bundling of issues.

What do you think?

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