Scores of protesters line up on Old Capitol steps to say Commission to revise state constitution is at odds with Florida’s tradition of open government and public access
Tallahassee Democrat by James Call
March 29, 2017
Just hours before the Constitution Revision Commission opened the doors to its first public hearing in Orlando, the League of Women Voters denounced the group from the steps of the Old Florida Capitol for discouraging the public from participating in an effort to amend the state constitution.
The CRC is unique. Only Florida has such a body that meets once every 20 years and places directly on the ballot proposed changes to the state’s governing document.
Pamela Goodman, LWV president, said the CRCs self-adopted rules are at odds with Florida’s tradition of open government and public access. She and members from a coalition of groups, including Common Cause, the ACLU and Planned Parenthood said the CRC rules fail to provide timely notices of meetings, schedules too few public hearings and lack safeguards to shield the 39 commissioners from undue influence.
“We need an open and transparent process of revising our state constitution; it’s a big deal,” said Damien Flier of Progress Florida. “A government of, by and for the people only works when our leaders open the doors to the public.”
The CRC has met twice before, in 1977 and 1997. This is the first CRC appointed by a majority of Republicans. The commissioners are appointed by the governor, Senate President, Speaker of the House and the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. Some commissioners have publicly discussed a desire to examine constitutional issues surrounding school vouchers, term limits for court justices and the Fair Districts redistricting amendment. Any proposed amendment would go before voters November 2018.
The CRC first public hearing was scheduled to begin about five hours after Goodman, Filer and others gathered to warn that a lack of public access and transparency in decision making would doom the commissioners’ efforts.
“It’s a little early to call it a failure before the Commission even holds its first substantive meeting,” said Christopher S. Emmanuel, the Florida Chamber’s point person for CRC. “The Constitution Revision Commission is a year and a half long process that will have public meetings in each region and every corner of the state.” [READ MORE]
In addition to the Orlando meeting, the CRC has also scheduled the following public hearings:
5 – 8 p.m., April 6
Florida International University
9 a.m. to noon, April 7
Florida Atlantic University
4 – 7 p.m., April 12
University of West Florida