Education effort underway before next Florida Constitution Revision Commission in 2017-18
The next mandatory review of Florida's Constitution won't start for another year or so, but a partnership of organizations led by the LeRoy Collins Institute at Florida State University and the Florida Bar wants to start raising Floridians' awareness about the process.
A Constitution Revision Commission convenes every 20 years to review Florida's Constitution and propose changes for voters to decide on. The board was established by the Legislature in the '60s and has met twice: in 1977-78 and 1997-98. The next one will be appointed prior to the 2017 legislative session, so that proposed amendments can go to the voters in 2018.
"The purpose of this project is really to educate, engage and empower the citizens," said Carol Weissert, director of the LeRoy Collins Institute, "and we want to start early because we want to make sure that citizens know this is coming up and they are going to participate in this process.
"The worst thing that we thought could happen is that it comes along and nobody's paying attention to it," she said.
The group -- "Partnership for Revising Florida's Constitution" -- has launched a website, produced a citizen's guide and started accounts on Twitter and Facebook as part of its public awareness campaign.
It's also hosting a symposium on Wednesday at FSU featuring members of past revision commissions. The event is viewable online via The Florida Channel.
The last Constitution Revision Commission produced eight changes to the Florida Constitution, including reducing the state Cabinet to three members.
Weissert said by getting citizens involved now, they can begin suggesting appointees or making recommendations for topics the next commission should consider.
The commission's 37 members are selected by the governor (15 members), the House speaker (9 members), the Senate president (9 members) and the Florida Supreme Court chief justice (3 members). Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi will also sit on the panel.
With Gov. Rick Scott, Bondi and legislative leaders all being Republicans, they'll have the power to choose like-minded individuals comprising a majority of the panel, without any guarantee that different political viewpoints will be represented.
If that's the case, it won't be the first time that's happened, though. Weissert said the first commission in the '70s was appointed by Democratic leaders. The 1997-98 commission was appointed by a mix of Republicans and Democrats, she said.
"Every important issue is imbued with politics, so that's not at all surprising," Weissert said. "It's up to the appointees to pick whomever they wish, and we've talked to them, they're aware of our project ... and we hope they'll hear from the citizens."