Every 20 years, a 37-person commission comes up with a list of amendments to the Florida Constitution.
The next cohort of the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC) met on Monday for the first time, in the Florida Senate chambers in Tallahassee.
The group will have a year to travel around the state and figure out what kinds of changes need to be made to the constitution. It already scheduled visits to Orange, Miami-Dade and Palm Beach Counties.
Governor Rick Scott, Senate President Joe Negron, House Speaker Richard Corcoran and Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga each appointed members of the commission. Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi is an automatic member. This is the first commission it has been empanelled by a majority of republicans.
“Changes to our fundamental law should never be made lightly and never without a thorough base of knowledge about why the founders of this great nation chose the system we have today,” said Justice Labarga at the opening meeting along with some pointed words about the need to respect the separation of powers between the different branches of government.
The first order of business of this largely ceremonial inaugural meeting was to discuss rules for how the commission will operate. They’ll be voting on those at their next meeting, but have already received criticism from the First Amendment Foundation, which has some concerns about transparency of the proposed rules.
In a letter to CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff, the FAF noted a difference in standards about what would constitute a meeting.
One of the FAF’s criticisms stems from the definition of what would constitute a meeting of the commission. The proposed rules would require meetings between three of more members of the commission be open to the public. The standard for most other governmental bodies is the meeting of two people.
"Transparency is of the utmost importance to the Commission and all meetings will be noticed and open to the public,"said Beruff when consulted about FAF's concerns. "I look forward to working with the Commissioners to adopt rules which reflect the importance of transparency and ensure total public access and involvement through this process."
Florida is the only state to have a commission like the CRC with the sole duty of suggesting amendments to the constitution. The potential changes could range from basic things, like cleaning up dated language, to fundamental shifts in the structure of the cabinet or approach to drawing congressional districts.
Voters—with a 60-percent approval threshold—will decide whether to accept the proposed changes during the 2018 general election.
The revision commission has met twice before. The 1997/1998 commission suggested constitutional amendments dealing with firearm purchases and judicial selection.
The CRC is already slated for three meetings: March 29 in Orange County, April 6 in Miami-Dade County and April 7 in Palm Beach County.