CRC gives public ideas short shrift

Shiniko R. Floyd, Orlando Sentinel

Ocala Star Banner Editorial
October 28, 2017

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission spent months traveling around the state asking citizens for their opinions on how to improve state government.

Apparently, the panel didn’t like what you all had to say.

The commission, which meets every 20 years, has the authority to put constitutional amendments on the November 2018 ballot. Between March and May, the CRC held nine public meetings, from Panama City to Miami, Jacksonville to Fort Myers, and in between, inviting residents to submit their ideas for change.

There was no shortage of ideas, as the panel received 2,012 submissions.

However, in order for a proposal to be officially considered to be placed on the ballot, it must be nominated by a commissioner and receive 10 votes from the 37-member commission. Out of the 2,000-plus ideas, the commission agreed to discuss only six — an acceptance rate of .3 percent.

To put that in perspective, a coalition of public-interest groups that includes the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the Florida First Amendment Foundation and the League of Women Voters Florida, pointed out that the last time the CRC met, in 1997-98, commissioners considered 696 public proposals and 128, or 18 percent, received the 10 votes needed to move forward for further consideration.

Perhaps in the last 20 years the sharp increase in the quantity of proposals coincided with a similar decline in quality. Certainly a perusal of the list brought forth such gems as enshrining in the constitution a right to hunt, fish and trap, or declaring NASCAR the official state sport. Some were redundant or simply unworkable. One citizen who took the invitation maybe a bit too seriously submitted no less than a “Complete Overhaul of the Constitution.”

You can understand why commissioners passed on them. Other proposals that they dismissed, though — such as electing the Public Service Commission, creating a state commission on sea-level rise, or restoring voting rights to felons — may be arguable, but they shouldn’t be dismissed out of hand.

Commissioners had an extremely discriminating filter — almost as if they knew in advance what they wanted to do. [READ MORE]

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