May 28, 2017
Responding to worries about the initial direction of Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission, a working group of its members has discussed — and, in some cases, dissected — rules for guiding this important body’s work.
The group addressed citizen criticism that the “working draft” of rules would, if finalized during a Revision Commission meeting abruptly scheduled for June 6, diminish transparency. Members also pushed back, properly, against proposals to consolidate power in the hands of the governor’s appointed chairman, Carlos Beruff of Manatee County.
Led by Roberto Martinez, a South Florida attorney who has served on many public boards and is an advocate of the state’s open-government laws, the group spent considerable time on the rules.
The 1997-98 commission’s rules stated: “All proceedings and records of the commission shall be open to the public.” This year’s draft rules would eliminate the words “proceedings” and “open,” but would require them to be “accessible.”
Martinez smartly proposed that the rules require all proceedings and records of the commission be both open and accessible. He also led the principled opposition to the draft rule seeking to allow two members of the commission to discuss public business in private.
The Legislature is the only public body in Florida with authority to evade the provisions of the Sunshine Law that forbid such discussions; we recently learned how that exemption led to secret negotiations between the House speaker and Senate president over the state budget and education policy.
The group’s debate demonstrated that too many commissioners don’t understand or mistrust the Sunshine Law. Yet there was a consensus in favor of Martinez’s stance. Good; we hope that view prevails June 6.
The state constitution belongs to “we, the people of the state of Florida.” As such, Floridians deserve to be privy to all communications among commissioners about how the people’s constitution might be changed. [READ MORE]