Every 20 years Florida officials meet to discuss possible revisions to the state constitutions that can be passed on to voters in the next statewide election.




Every 20 years Florida officials meet to discuss possible revisions to the state constitutions that can be passed on to voters in the next statewide election.

The Constitution Revision Commission (CRC), which is unique to Florida, is made up of 37 members, of which 15 are appointed by the governor, nine by the Speaker of the Florida House of Representatives, nine by the President of the Florida Senate, three by the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court, and one being the acting attorney general of the state.

The committee examines the state’s constitution, hosts public forums for citizen input, and accepts public proposals through an online process.

At an open commission meeting in Panama City in early May, Carlos Beruff, the chairman of the commission highlighted the uniqueness of the commission in amending the state constitution.

“Essentially one individual can come forward with an idea, and as a panel, we can take that idea all the way to the November 2018 ballot,” Beruff said.

It would seem however, that the uniqueness of the CRC is lost to the Florida voter.

As part of a monthly consumer sentiment survey, the University of Florida Survey Research Center asked Florida residents their knowledge and opinion of the CRC.

Of 449 Floridians surveyed, only 14 percent were aware of the CRC, while 86 percent thought that the CRC was a good idea.

The 2017-2018 commission is made up of a majority of members with law experience, with 16 members listed as attorneys and another two listed with law enforcement experience.

Another eight come from the business sector, while six have an educational background and two work in the medical field. The group is rounded off by a pastor.

The Panhandle region has two residents sitting on the commission.

Jimmy Patronis, of Panama City, is a restaurateur and a commissioner on the Florida Public Service Commission.

From 2006 to 2014, he was the representative of the 6th District to the Florida House of Representative; Gulf County was part of his district for most of his tenure.

Patronis was appointed to the Constitution Revision Commission by the governor.

Don Gaetz, of Niceville, founded the VITAS Healthcare Corporation, which he later sold, and was also a member of the Florida Senate from 2006 to 2016. Gaetz’s son, Matt, is the congressman for Florida’s 1st District. Gaetz was appointed to the revision commission by the Florida Senate president.

As of June 1, there have been 270 approved public proposals, on hot-button issues like abortion, marijuana legalization, minimum wage and the restoration of voting rights for convicted felons.

The last time there was a revision commission in 1997 and 1998, the group only saw 187 public proposals, with the commission forwarding nine proposed constitutional changes to the 1998 ballot.

Of the nine, eight amendments were passed by the citizens of Florida ranging from governmental procedure to firearms purchases.

In 1998, only a simple majority of votes were needed to pass ballot amendments.

In 2006, rules were changed and amendments on the 2018 ballot will need a least 60 percent of the vote to pass.