From banning the death penalty to legalizing marijuana, the panel charged with overhauling Florida’s constitution is now out with about five dozen proposals.
The 37-member Constitution Revision Commission had just before midnight last Tuesday – the bewitching hour on Halloween -- to submit their proposals. As of Monday (12/6), 91 are listed on the website flcrc.gov.
“We’ve had about two thousand people come to hearings around the state, and about 800-900 of them have offered testimony with ideas,” said CRC member and former State Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville. “There’s been nothing terribly surprising, but there have been repeated themes.”
Calls to CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff seeking an interview were not returned.
As a CRC member, Gaetz is involved in a number of proposals. One would require Florida Supreme Court justices and judges in the appellate courts to be confirmed by the Florida Senate.
“We’ve seen some critical, critical policy issues decided at the appellate level and the state Supreme Court,” said Gaetz. “I think it’s important to have the same vetting and examination process at the state level by elected officials, as we do at the federal level.”
One of the most controversial amendments comes from Orlando attorney and longtime abortion opponent John Stemberger. Proposal 22 would limit the constitutional right of privacy used to protect abortion rights in judicial rulings.
“It’s a wolf in sheep’s clothing,” says Kara Gross, Legislative Counsel for the ACLU of Florida. “The proposal seems innocuous; it just refers to informational privacy. But what it is doing is restricting all privacy protections, just to informational privacy.”
“Current protections within the Florida Constitution provide greater rights of privacy than the federal constitution,” Gross said. “And they should not be at all restricted or eliminated.”
The ACLU contends that Prop 22 – if approved -- could lead to a “domino effect” on civil liberties such as separation of church and state, along with certain rights -- voting, reproductive, LGBT, and immigration.
“While the target of this proposal is women’s reproductive freedom, it has collateral consequences for all other privacy rights as well,” said Gross. “The proposed amendment basically doesn’t add any new protections; it just takes away all the other types of privacy.”
Elsewhere, Don Gaetz and State Sen. Darryl Rouson are backing a proposal they say would strengthen state ethics laws involving former public officials who become lobbyists, from the current two-year ban.
“The legislation I’ve proposed provides that once you’ve been in public office, you can’t be a lobbyist for six years,” said Gaetz. “I have this radical belief that you ought to either be a lobbyist or be a public officials, but not be both,”
Gaetz is also among those on the panel backing a return of the secretary of state’s office to an elected cabinet position. Since 1998, the office has been filled through an appointment by the governor.
Going forward, says Gaetz, there’s a series of committee meetings within the CRC over the next few months.
“The committees will hear these proposals, vote them up or down, and then they’ll be reported to the full commission,” Gaetz said. “The full commission will decide sometime over the next several months which of these proposals we’ll present to the general public at the November, 2018 election.”
For a measure to end up on the ballot, it will need support from 22 of the 37 commission members. The CRC has a May 10 deadline for its proposals. Once on the ballot, they would each need 60 percent voter approval.