The Significance of the 2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission
By Gregory A. McAloon
The upcoming Constitution Revision Commission will impact the lives of a significant number of Florida’s citizens. The Commission has the power to propose changes to the Florida Constitution, which then must be ratified by the voters of the State. The procedures of the Constitution Revision Commission, as well as different ways citizens can get involved, are described below. Because of the significant potential impact of constitutional amendments, careful focus needs to be put on the process.
Amending the Florida Constitution
Florida currently has more ways to amend its Constitution than any other state. Article XI of the Florida Constitution provides for five ways to amend the Constitution: the Florida Legislature can propose changes through a Joint Resolution; the Constitution Revision Commission can recommend changes; the people can amend the Florida Constitution through the initiative process; there can be a meeting of a Constitutional Convention; or the Taxation and Budget Commission can recommend taxation and budgetary process changes.
2017-18 Constitution Revision Commission
The Constitution Revision Commission meets every twenty years, and the 2017-18 Commission will only be the third in Florida’s history. The purpose of the Commission is to review Florida’s Constitution and propose changes for voter consideration. The Commission is comprised of thirty-seven members: fifteen appointed by the Governor; nine appointed by the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives; nine appointed by the President of the Florida Senate; three appointed by the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court; and the Attorney General.
The process begins by the Governor naming a Constitution Revision Commission steering committee to explore potential members to be appointed. The steering committee consists of state officials and representatives of the Governor. Selected members of the Constitution Revision Commission are named thirty days before the start of the 2017 Legislative Session, and will perform their duties upon conclusion of the Legislative Session. Governor Scott has appointed the steering committee, which has begun reviewing applications, and will make the final selections to the Commission no later than March 6, 2017.
Once convened, the Commission holds public hearings where the people may attend and involve themselves in the process. Citizens may provide input and feedback directly to the Commission during these hearings. Upon conclusion of the public comment period, the Commission will recommend amendments to be placed on the 2018 ballot, and voted on in the November elections. The amendment must pass a sixty-percent vote by the people of the State of Florida.
1997-98 Constitution Revision Commission
The 1997-98 Constitution Revision Commission held eleven public hearings, and received several hundred proposals from the public. The Commission comprised of a diverse group of appointments including Tripp Scott’s own, Former Florida Senate President James A. Scott. Nine amendments were placed for a vote by the citizens, and eight passed through a simple majority vote. As of 2006, a sixty-percent vote is required for passage of an amendment proposed by the Commission. The amendments dealt with such issues as conservation, judicial selection, and education. Furthermore, the Commission proposed technical revisions to the text to help clean up and modernize the Florida Constitution.
Citizens play a critical role by suggesting appointees and monitoring the process. Changing a constitution has a far greater impact than merely changing a state statute. Citizens must monitor the progression, and provide input to ensure their interests are represented. Citizens can contact officials making appointments to suggest representatives who will adequately support their interests on the Constitution Revision Commission. Once the Commission is appointed, citizens can attend public hearings to ensure issues are carefully considered. Citizens have the final vote on the proposals on the 2018 November ballot.
Listed below is the contact information for those who have the power to make appointments to the Constitution Revision Commission.
Office of the Governor of the State of Florida
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-0001
Office of the Florida Senate President
404 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1100
Office of the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives
402 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1300
Office of the Chief Justice
Florida Supreme Court
500 S. Duval St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399-1925