Orlando Sentinel Editorial
June 9, 2017
Floridians have reason to believe the fix is in when it comes to the state’s most powerful unelected group.
On Tuesday, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission approved rules for how its 37 members will decide which proposed amendments will go on the 2018 ballot. A news release said the goal is to “facilitate an open and transparent process for the public and to ensure that all commissioners have a voice during the process.”
Really? Let’s recap.
The commission began holding public hearings in March without having set any rules for how it would operate and while its legislative members were in Tallahassee for the annual session.
After criticism for starting prematurely, Chairman Carlos Beruff — whom Gov. Rick Scott appointed — drafted rules that gave him near-dictatorial powers. After more criticism, Beruff named an eight-member committee to draft rules for discussion at a May 17 meeting. Nine days later, he disbanded the committee.
Beruff then told commissioners to submit their own proposals for how decisions should be made. All of them, he said, would be considered.
But at Tuesday’s meeting, Beruff rushed through a proposal from Commissioner Brecht Heuchan. The proposal came close to what advocacy groups wanted. Further debate could have made it better.
Then, Beruff refused to allow debate on roughly 200 pages of alternative ideas. When Commissioner Bob Solari asked for more discussion, noting that the rules had changed “five or six times,” Beruff said, “I rule against it.”
Ironically, the rules aren’t as bad as some had feared. Advocacy groups, including the League of Women Voters, had worried the rules might not adhere tightly enough to the Sunshine Law.
The rules adopted Tuesday emphasize public access, says First Amendment Foundation Director Barbara Petersen. But she wants Beruff to clarify that two or more members can’t talk privately about commission business.
The 1997-98 commission — the panel meets every 20 years — set “a high standard,” Petersen said. “We encourage Chairman Beruff to follow the same standards.” [READ MORE]