Florida voters asked to scrap one way to amend constitution

Oct 27, 2022, 10:44 AM | Updated: 10:46 pm

FILE - This July 22, 1997 photo shows Panel members reviewing the state constitution in Panama City...

FILE - This July 22, 1997 photo shows Panel members reviewing the state constitution in Panama City, Fla. Florida voters are being asked to get rid of a commission that meets every 20 years to recommend changes to the state constitution, the only such panel among the U.S. states that can refer amendments directly to a statewide ballot. Opponents of Constitution Revision Commission maintain say it has gone beyond its original mandate and lacks accountability. (Vern Miller/News Herald via AP)

(Vern Miller/News Herald via AP)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida voters are deciding whether to get rid of a commission that meets every 20 years to recommend changes to the state constitution, the only such panel among the U.S. states that refers amendments directly to a statewide ballot.

Opponents of the Constitution Revision Commission say it has gone beyond its original mandate, lacks accountability and has become a venue for new statewide policy to be proposed to a group of temporary officials who — in contrast to the elected Legislature — are unelected appointees.

The commission isn’t the only way to refer state amendments to voters. The Legislature can do so, as can citizens through initiative petitions.

Still, some citizen groups don’t want to lose the commission, which Common Cause Florida calls “an important pathway Floridians have to change their state’s constitution.” The group is urging voters to reject the measure in voting that started in Florida on Oct. 24 and culminates Nov. 8.

The commission was created in the late 1960s and met in 1977-78, 1997-98 and 2017-18. Its critics say it was only intended to propose clean-up language or delete obsolete provisions, though the constitution gives it broad authority to set its own rules, procedures and agenda.

The governor, Senate president, House speaker — who in some years can be all from the same political party — appoint 33 of the panel’s members. The Supreme Court chief justice appoints three members, and the attorney general is an automatic appointee.

Critics say the panel’s membership is politically driven and includes unaccountable bureaucrats, political donors and lobbyists.

“It’s run by people who follow no rules and who are not elected,” said Republican Sen. Jeff Brandes, who sponsored the bill to put the measure on the ballot. “What we see is this body who, with one-party control of the Legislature and governor’s mansion, can effectively rewrite the constitution and I think that’s something both Republicans and Democrats should be concerned about.”

In the latest meeting, the commission placed seven proposed constitutional amendments on the 2018 ballot. Voters approved all seven. Some lawmakers complained that the commission had bundled different subjects into single proposed amendments. For example, one measure banned oil drilling in state waters and also barred vaping in places where smoking is banned.

In any case, the commission’s recommended ballot issues were overshadowed that year by a citizens’ initiative measure to automatically restore voting rights for most felons who have completed their sentences, which also passed. Republican lawmakers later insisted the law be clarified to require that felons pay all fines, restitution and legal fees as part of their sentences to regain their right to vote.

It’s not the first time voters have been asked to abolish the commission. In 1980, voters rejected a similar ballot question, with 56.5% voting no and 43.5% voting yes. That’s when the governor’s office and Legislature were controlled by Democrats. They’re now controlled by Republicans.

Back in 1980 such ballot measures required a simple majority of yes votes to pass. However, they now require a higher hurdle, with approval by 60% of voters.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


Seattle non-profits...

Associated Press

Oregon man convicted of murder in fatal shooting of sheriff’s deputy in Washington state

A jury has convicted an Oregon man of murder in the fatal shooting of a sheriff’s deputy in Washington state.

3 hours ago

Image: Former U.S. President Donald Trump speaks to a crowd during a campaign rally on Monday, Sept...

Associated Press

Judge rules Donald Trump defrauded banks, insurers while building real estate empire

A judge ruled Tuesday that Donald Trump committed fraud for years while building the real estate empire that catapulted him to fame and the White House.

17 hours ago

FILE - The Amazon logo is displayed, Sept. 6, 2012, in Santa Monica, Calif. Amazon's profitable clo...

Haleluya Hadero, Associated Press

Amazon sued by FTC and 17 states over allegations it inflates online prices and overcharges sellers

The FTC filed an antitrust lawsuit against Amazon on Tuesday, alleging the e-commerce behemoth uses its position in the marketplace to inflate prices

24 hours ago

KYIV, UKRAINE - 2022/09/03: A man looks at an image generated based on the stories of displaced chi...

Associated Press

Tech companies try to take AI image generators mainstream with better protections against misuse

Artificial intelligence tools that can conjure whimsical artwork or realistic-looking images from written commands started wowing the public last year. But most people don't actually use them at work or home.

1 day ago

Image: Actor David McCallum attends an event for "NCIS" during the 2009 Monte Carlo Television Fest...

Associated Press

David McCallum, star of hit series ‘The Man From U.N.C.L.E.’ and ‘NCIS,’ dies at 90

Actor David McCallum, who was the eccentric medical examiner in the popular "NCIS," has died. He was 90.

2 days ago

FILE - COVID-19 antigen home tests indicating a positive result are photographed in New York, April...

Associated Press

Biden administration announces $600M to produce and distribute COVID tests

The Biden administration announced Wednesday that it is providing $600 million in funding to produce new at-home COVID-19 tests and is restarting a website allowing Americans to again order up to four free tests per household

2 days ago

Sponsored Articles

Swedish Cyberknife...

September is Prostate Cancer Awareness Month

September is a busy month on the sports calendar and also holds a very special designation: Prostate Cancer Awareness Month.

Ziply Fiber...

Dan Miller

The truth about Gigs, Gs and other internet marketing jargon

If you’re confused by internet technologies and marketing jargon, you’re not alone. Here's how you can make an informed decision.

Education families...

Education that meets the needs of students, families

Washington Virtual Academies (WAVA) is a program of Omak School District that is a full-time online public school for students in grades K-12.

Emergency preparedness...

Emergency planning for the worst-case scenario

What would you do if you woke up in the middle of the night and heard an intruder in your kitchen? West Coast Armory North can help.

Innovative Education...

The Power of an Innovative Education

Parents and students in Washington state have the power to reimagine the K-12 educational experience through Insight School of Washington.

Medicare fraud...

If you’re on Medicare, you can help stop fraud!

Fraud costs Medicare an estimated $60 billion each year and ultimately raises the cost of health care for everyone.

Florida voters asked to scrap one way to amend constitution