Critics slam Florida constitution panel for few public proposals

Miami Herald files: Constitution Revision Commission met in Miami for a public hearing April 6

Orlando Sentinel by The News Service of Florida’s Lloyd Dunkelberger
October 18, 2017

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has voted to advance four public proposals, including a measure dealing with homestead exemptions and another potentially affecting abortion rights.

The commission, which meets every 20 years and has the power to place constitutional amendments directly on the 2018 ballot, has voted to formally consider a total of six measures proposed by the public, out of more than 2,000 proposals submitted after a series of public hearings earlier this year.

That paucity of public proposals formally advanced by the commission, which is dominated by Republican appointees, drew criticism from a coalition of Democratic-leaning groups, including the Florida Education Association, League of Women Voters Florida and the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida.

The coalition called the final vote on the public proposals “a stunning rejection” of the measures advanced by the public. In contrast, the group noted the 1997-98 CRC received 696 public proposals and advanced 128 for further consideration.

CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff defended the process, saying the advancement of the six proposals is “merely one of several ways the public’s voice is heard during this process.”

He noted CRC members have until Oct. 31 to submit their own proposals and many of those measures may be “inspired by similar themes in the public proposals” or may be the result of testimony heard by the commission.

Through Tuesday, commission members have submitted 15 proposals.

CRC members also have said there is a great deal of duplication or similarity among the 2,000 public submissions.

For instance, CRC member Sherry Plymale earlier this month advanced a measure (700396) that seeks to open party primaries to more voters when the only opposition is a general election write-in candidate.

The item is similar to approximately 20 public proposals submitted to the commission.

Among the four public measures advanced Tuesday, CRC member John Stemberger, an Orlando lawyer and longtime anti-abortion activist, won approval for a proposal (700698) filed by former Florida Supreme Court Justice Kenneth Bell that would narrow the right to privacy in the state constitution. [READ MORE]

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