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Florida Constitution Revision Commission Holds First Public Hearing Next Week in Orlando

The 2017-2018 Florida Constitution Revision Commission will hold its first public hearing next week in Orlando at the UCF Fairwinds Alumni Center starting at 5:00 pm. This public hearing was announced on Monday during the Commission’s organizational session.

Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission – or “CRC” – was first created in 1968. The CRC is comprised of 37 members appointed by the Governor, the Speaker of the House, the Senate President and the Supreme Court. The Commission meets once every 20 years and is tasked with holding public hearings and considering proposals to change the Florida Constitution. Any proposals approved by the Commission will go directly on the ballot in 2018 for approval by Florida voters. If the voters approve a proposal by more than a 60% vote, the proposal becomes part of the Constitution.

A state’s constitution is the single document that not only controls all the other laws of the State, it literally dictates the fundamental structure and operation of the government. No other state has anything like Florida’s CRC for changing its constitution.

Florida created the CRC in 1968 in reaction to what had been almost 75 years of iron fisted control by a group of North Florida legislators known as the “Pork Chop Gang.” The Pork Chop Gang tightly controlled state government for decades and stymied all attempts to make any significant changes to state government.

The CRC was created and approved by voters in 1968 as part of a brand new State constitution. The purpose of the CRC was to give the public a direct voice in state government through a series of public hearings and a process to amend the Constitution.

As former Florida Supreme Court Justice Glenn Terrell said at the time, “We are dealing with a constitutional democracy in which sovereignty resides in the people. It is their Constitution… They have a right to change, abrogate or modify it in any manner they see fit…”

When the CRC last met twenty years ago in 1998 they approved 9 proposals for the ballot. Florida voters voted for 8 of the 9 proposals which made sweeping and substantial changes. One of the proposals dramatically changed the Florida Cabinet including the elimination of three statewide elected cabinet offices – the Secretary of State, the State Comptroller, and the Secretary of Education – and creation of a new one – the Chief Financial Officer. Another proposal created a brand new State entity — the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. Other proposals provided for broad changes to education, taxation, and other areas of State government.

One of the fundamental missions of the CRC is to hold public hearings around the State to gather ideas, information and proposals from members of the public. These hearings present a rare and incredibly valuable opportunity for any member of the public to participate directly in state government and in the conversation about how we can improve our State.

Yesterday Carlos Beruff, the new Chairman of the CRC who was appointed by Governor Rick Scott, announced the dates and locations for the first four meetings.

The first meeting will be held in Orlando, at UCF, in the Fairwinds Alumni Center on Wednesday, March 29th, from 5:00 pm until 8:00 pm. Members of the public are encouraged to attend. There will be an opportunity for anyone to speak, share ideas and suggest proposals.

I was honored to have been appointed as a member of the CRC by House of Representatives Speaker Richard Corcoran. I am excited about the first public hearing next week, especially because it will be held in my home town. I sincerely hope the meeting will be well attended and look forward to hearing ideas and proposals for the 2018 ballot.

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Rich Newsome is a new member of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission. His CRC email address is Rich.Newsome@flcrc.gov

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