Palm Beach Post Editorial
June 3, 2017
Florida, alone among states, allows its state constitution to be revised once every 20 years through a panel called the Constitution Revision Commission. Its 37 members are appointed from the heads of the state’s executive, legislative and judicial branches of government. The commission has the power to recommend amendments to the constitution, and then present those changes to voters. The public can approve or deny them. These are difficult-to-undo changes that must be handled with care.
The last time Florida voters OK’d a commission’s proposals was during the Lawton Chiles administration. That group understood the weight of its charge, and took pains to establish clear policies and maximize public input at every stage. Florida voters approved its findings.
Voters will have another opportunity in 2018. But things aren’t off to such an open and transparent start. Gov. Rick Scott’s choice for commission chairman, former Republican U.S. Senate candidate and real estate developer Carlos Beruff, began the process by attempting to make himself king rather than chairman. A rocky beginning bodes ill for the rest of the commission’s work.
It is in the governor’s interest to see that this ship is righted in time for a key meeting in Orlando on Tuesday.
Beruff has set things askew by seeking the power to solely decide whether or not the wider commission’s recommendations would make it to the ballot. He also wanted the right to prevent citizens from distributing literature in public areas of the Capitol or outside other meeting spaces, a shocking attempt to abridge Floridians’ First Amendment rights. He also attempted to allow secret meetings among commission members, according to 16 state organizations that have jointly objected to Beruff’s plan. The groups include the ACLU, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause Florida, the Florida Education Association and others. [READ MORE]