Every 20 years the Florida Constitution requires the appointment of a Constitution Revision Commission.
The 37-member commission is comprised of appointees by the Senate president and House speaker, with the majority of appointees by the governor.
All the appointments have already been made and they’ve already begun holding town hall meetings around the state to hear from interested individuals who want to offer suggestions.
Though I couldn’t give any remarks to the CRC, I do have two suggestions for them to consider.
The first is that our state Constitution is too overloaded with amendments that don’t really belong in our most sacred governing document.
Therefore, I would recommend that some amendments be removed and put into statute.
I know my suggestions will cause much ruckus, but as a conservative Democrat, I believe that the pregnant pigs, Amendment 1 on the environment, and Amendment 2 on medical marijuana, at the very least, should be stricken from the document and instead be put into state law.
Before, everyone goes bonkers, the advantage for the proponents of these amendments would be that you could change the law more easily and cheaply into what you wanted or meant it to be in the first place. But, of course, that only works for Amendments 1 and 2, whose proponents want to say after-the-fact what they really meant, but didn’t put it into words succinctly enough.
My second suggestion is in two parts.
First, our state Constitution should only be for changes to the structure of government, and perhaps taxation. That way, our Constitution doesn’t end up being muddied with populist causes that can’t seem to make their way through the halls of the Legislature.
The second part is that voters should be allowed to enact “statutory revision.”
Let’s face it, whether we like it or not -- and I don’t -- some voters want to make changes in the way Florida regulates or governs itself.
Voters have only one real option now and that through Constitutional amendments, which in my humble opinion, has led us to the problems we’re having now, with loading up our Constitution with populist ideas.
Statutory revision should be designed to be the go-to, preferred method for changing Florida’s rules and regulations.
It could work like this: voters could start a petition effort, collect signatures and put a statutory revision on the ballot, and if it passes, then it goes into state law.
Of course, we the people would need some protections from the folks out there who want to turn Florida into a replica of a European nation with socialist policies.
By providing that a statutory revision must be passed by 65 percent or 75 percent of the voters in the state (not 75 percent of the voters voting), the threshold would be high, but it would also guarantee that the Legislature couldn’t amend the law for, say, three-to-five years.
If the statutory revision passed by any amount between 50 percent plus one vote to 65 percent to 75 percent, the Legislature could amend the law within some reasonable boundaries in the next legislative session.
I fully understand that Florida could become the next state to mimic California (ugh!) with all their proposed changes, but that can be healthy for a democracy, and we’re beginning to look like them anyway with all the various proposed constitutional amendments.
The very high threshold -- remember a high percentage of ALL registered voters -- guarantees that a plurality of all voters in Florida couldn’t impose their will on the majority, but they still could change Florida law if enough voters agree with them.
More importantly, for proponents and opponents of amendments, you wouldn’t have to wage another amendment battle to change a prior amendment, as Gov. Jeb Bush did on the high-speed rail issue.
Now proponents in the Legislature could work to make a statutory revision better -- or worse -- if the issue didn’t garner the very high threshold.
This concept resolves three inherent problems Florida is continuing to face despite the amendment that forced a higher threshold for approval -- 60 percent.
Florida voters would see fewer amendments because it would be restricted to only a couple of topics -- governance and taxation.
The other is that voters would still have the chance to change Florida law, and if it was popular enough, the Legislature couldn’t touch it for a set period.
Finally, it could keep our Constitution from being cluttered up in a way that is not the best to govern our state going forward.
Commissioners, please consider this idea, because it gives both sides -- proponents and opponents of amendment battles -- something to support for their cause.
It may require some more polishing, but I believe we should keep our Constitution to a bare minimum of changes, same as the U.S. Constitution.
Barney Bishop III, is a lobbyist in Tallahassee since 1979, and is the Immediate Past President & CEO of Associated Industries of Florida, and a frequent contributor to Sunshine State News. He can be reached at Barney@BarneyBishop.com