Takeaways from Tallahassee by Florida Politics’ Peter Schorsch
December 11, 2017
A coalition of progressive and open government organizations is again taking the state’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) to task, this time for “glaring examples of rule violations” and calling the panel’s conduct “a travesty.”
Leaders of the American Civil Liberties Union of Florida, the Florida First Amendment Foundation, the League of Women Voters Florida and others wrote a letter to CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff, an appointee of Gov. Rick Scott, this week.
“Commissioners seem to be working to advance proposals that impact their own interests or those of paying clients,” it said. “Also, open meeting rules are simply being ignored. And basic meeting procedures established by the CRC have been violated.”
For example, the letter says “one commissioner who is a paid lobbyist for a law firm has filed a proposal that — while highly beneficial for the people of Florida — could create an economic benefit for that law firm.”
Commissioner Brecht Heuchan has lobbied for Wilkes & McHugh, “a law firm that makes its living suing nursing homes,” as the Florida Health Care Association, a nursing-home advocacy group, put it. Heuchan filed a proposed amendment creating a “bill of rights” for nursing home and assisted living facility residents.
The groups also took issue with apparent wheeling and dealing to save a proposal in the commission’s Education Committee, saying “discussions behind the scenes … outside of public view” violated the commission’s openness rules.
“The message the CRC is sending to the citizens of Florida is coming through loud and clear,” the letter says. “If rules of procedures and codes of conduct get in the way of proposals that are part of a preordained outcome of this commission — they will be ignored.
“Floridians deserve better,” it added. The full letter is here.
“Commissioners are hard at work holding open and transparent public meetings to consider proposals, the majority of which represent ideas submitted by the public,” said CRC spokeswoman Meredith Beatrice in an email. “Commissioners hold themselves to a high standard and are following the same rules as the previous commission in 1997-1998.”
The commission will meet again in committees next week in the Capitol. [READ MORE]