by Orlando Sentinel’s Stephen Lemongello
June 6, 2017
he Florida Constitution Revision Commission on Tuesday scrapped proposals many warned would limit transparency and give its chairman too much power, instead voting to stick with essentially the same rules laid out by the last commission 20 years ago.
The decision at the meeting at the University of Central Florida in Orlando led to a notable split in the commission ranks between those appointed by Gov. Rick Scott and those chosen by legislative and judicial leaders, many of whom said the rules were unclear or didn’t go far enough.
For now, though, public policy groups that had concerns that the commission would allow secret meetings between two commissioners were optimistic.
“We would hope, in adopting the same rules [as the last commission], that the commission will operate under the same standards of openness and transparency,” said Barbara Petersen, president of the Florida First Amendment Foundation. “They can always weaken it, but the debate over this was very important. It brought the issue to the public so the public understands.”
The CRC, which last met before this year in 1997-98, is several months into a statewide tour to hear from residents about issues they want to be added to the state constitution. The first meeting this year was at UCF in March.
Next year, the group of 37 commissioners will use the feedback to help make recommendations about amendments to be put on the 2018 ballot for voter approval.
But before that happens, they needed to lay down rules about how the process would work.
Commissioners met to adopt 29 pages of proposed rules and debate 74 amendments, with the most controversial provision stating that records would be “accessible,” not open, and that two members discuss business without the meeting open to the public.
Several commissioners had proposed amendments that would require a more open process, Petersen said, with commissioner and Miami attorney Bobby Martinez offering one that specifically cited Florida Government in the Sunshine statutes that prohibit private meetings between elected officials. [READ MORE]