Work Begins Soon On Possible Changes To Florida Constitution

Mar 10, 2017

Carlos Beruff will chair the Constitutional Revision Commission in 2017-18.
Credit wusf.usf.edu

For the third time in Florida history, the state’s Constitution Revision Commission is forming to study the state’s legal blueprint.

Northwest Florida will have a voice on the panel.

Thirty-six people – both Republicans and Democrats -- have been named to the CRC by Gov. Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, and Chief Justice Jorge Labarga.

“Going into the constitutional revision, it’s a blank sheet of paper to do what we think is appropriate, and what we think will benefit the state for the next generation,” said former state Sen. Don Gaetz of Niceville, one of Negron’s picks for the commission.

“He and I had talked during the last legislative session,” said Gaetz. “The two of us had consulted a little bit about he was going to appoint people who would represent the state Senate, and he asked me if I’d be interested.”

When the CRC begins, they’ll have plenty of work to do. At 58,000 words, the Florida Constitution is seven times the length of its U.S. counterpart. More space is given in the state document for the care of pregnant pigs, than for the First Amendment in the U.S. Constitution.

Former state Sen. Don Gaetz was named to the CRC by Senate President Joe Negron.
Credit Florida Senate

“I do think that the Constitution of Florida reads a little bit like the Book of Leviticus,” said Gaetz. “It’s long and it’s got a lot of ‘don’ts and do’s’ in it. I have no agenda going into it; there’s not a part of the constitution I particularly want to change.”

Attorney General Pam Bondi is the 37th member, and businessman Carlos Beruff – who ran for the U.S. Senate in 2016 – was appointed chairman by Gov. Rick Scott. The commission will begin work next month, as the 2017 legislative session reaches its end. The next year, says Gaetz, will be a busy one.

“Debating, listening, holding public hearings, examining the existing constitution,” Gaetz said. “And then recommending changes to the voters in the November, 2018 general election. So that’s what we’ll be doing the next year, in order to plan for the next 20 years of Florida’s future.”

And while the CRC is made up of people from various walks of life, the general rule is that no special knowledge of the constitution or governmental experience is necessary to serve.

In fact, the call for a Constitution Revision Commission every 20 years comes from the Florida Constitution itself -- Article XI, Section 2. The CRC is also one of five ways the constitution can be altered.