Constitution panel shortchanged public on amendment ideas

Shiniko R. Floyd, Orlando Sentinel

Orlando Sentinel Editorial
October 27, 2017

Proposing amendments to the Florida Constitution is normally a privilege reserved for state legislators, or for special-interest groups with pockets deep enough to invest millions of dollars into petition drives and gather hundreds of thousands of signatures statewide to qualify for a spot on the ballot. But once every 20 years, ordinary Floridians are promised a shot at offering amendments for consideration by a state panel.

The chairman of that panel, the Constitution Revision Commission, made a late appeal to the public to take full advantage of that opportunity in a guest column we published early this month, a few days before the Oct. 6 deadline for submitting proposals. “The more people who get involved in our democracy, the better,” wrote Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County developer and failed U.S. Senate candidate appointed to lead the commission by Gov. Rick Scott. “Consider this an open invitation to share your ideas with the CRC.”

Members of the public accepted that invitation in good faith, and came through with more than 2,012 proposals by the deadline. But last week, in a 20-minute meeting — about as long as a coffee break — the commission advanced just six public proposals for further consideration. That’s 0.3 percent if you do the math.

A coalition of government watchdog groups called those results “brazenly dismissive of the concerns and suggestions of Floridians.” That’s a harsh verdict, but it’s hard to dispute when comparing this commission to the last one 20 years ago.

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