The Florida Bar

Bar Issue Papers

Florida Constitutional Revision

On This Page
I. Issue
II. The Florida Bar Position
III. Background

I. Issue

The Florida Constitution not only permits change, but some claim it encourages change by providing numerous methods of amendment and by requiring its own periodic review. The Florida Constitution has more processes for amendment and revision than any other state constitution. While it is generally agreed that constitutions must be capable of change, critics argue the Florida constitution is too easily changed, detracting from it's ability to set enduring legal parameters and making it susceptible to the politics of the moment.
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II. The Florida Bar Position

The Florida Bar does not have a legislative position in regard to changing, revising or amending the constitution or the review process for proposed changes to the state constitution.
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III. Background

A. History of Florida's Six Constitutions

The first Florida Constitution was drafted in 1838 at a convention convened in St. Joseph on December 3, 1838. That constitution established a governmental pattern which prevailed in other states: a one­term governor, a bicameral legislature, and departmental administrators selected by the legislature and eligible for reelection. The constitution banned bankers and clergymen from being elected as governor or legislators.

On January 3, 1861, a convention assembled in Tallahassee to adopt an Ordinance of Secession to modify the constitution to substitute "Confederate States" for "United States." Under prevailing law, the changes did not require popular ratification as the convention was empowered to make necessary changes in a unilateral manner. On October 28, 1865, a new constitution, based on the annulment of the Ordinance of Secession, was devised by convention delegates. However, the new constitution never became effective as Florida was placed under post-Civil War military jurisdiction.

The fourth Florida Constitution was drafted and ratified in 1868. The fractious delegation convened in Tallahassee on January 20, 1868, with some factions meeting in nearby Monticello. Following bitter deliberation, a consensus was reached and a new constitution was ratified in May 1868. The "Carpetbag" Constitution accorded the governor authority to appoint all county offices; reduced the number of legislators from populous counties; and established a "cabinet" system of administrators. Popular election of public officials was restored in the 1885 constitution that was ratified in November 1886. Among other changes, the new constitution established a legislative structure based on a fixed number of members. The 1885 constitution was amended subsequently to reflect purely technical changes.

The 1885 constitution endured until 1966. On January 11, 1966, a constitution revision commission assembled to study the Florida Constitution and suggest changes thereto. The commission reported its recommendations to the Legislature on December 13, 1966. The Legislature revised the commission's draft and adjourned July 2, 1968.

The most recent Constitution Revision Commission completed its work in 1998.
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B. Methods to Propose Revisions to State Constitution

There are five methods to amend the Florida Constitution:

(1) the Legislature can propose revisions through a joint resolution approved by three­fifths of the membership of each chamber;
(2) a constitution revision commissions is appointed every 20 years to review the constitution, suggest revisions, hold public hearings and file recommendations for revisions not later than 180 days before the next general election;
(3) citizens may petition to amend the constitution through an initiative process wherein petitions are "signed by a number of electors in each of one half of the congressional districts of the state, and of the state as a whole, equal to eight percent of the votes cast in each of such districts respectively and in the state as a whole in the last preceding election in which presidential electors were chosen;"
(4) a constitutional convention may be assembled if "a number of electors in each of one half of the congressional districts of the state, and equal to 15 percent of the votes cast in each such district respectively and in the state as a whole" petition for a convention. Such petition must be filed with the Secretary of State at least 90 days prior to the next general election for placement on the ballot. Upon a majority vote in the affirmative, convention participants will be elected at the next general election and the convention will assemble 21 days thereafter; and
(5) The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission which meets every 10 years can propose revisions to the constitution dealing with taxation and the state budgetary process.
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C. Constitution Revision Commission

The first organizational session for the Constitution Revision Commission was June 16, 1997 in Tallahassee. The 37-member commission had approximately one year to identify issues, perform research, conduct public hearings and make recommended constitutional changes for the November 1998 ballot.

For 11 months, the 37-member commission worked to develop a list of proposed changes to Florida's constitution. The 19 Democrats and 18 Republicans on the Constitution Revision Commission visited 12 cities to hear proposals at public hearings. They rejected 154 proposals, including restricting abortion rights, altering the citizen initiative process, creating an independent commission to reapportion the legislature and stopping the flow of so-called "soft" money into political campaigns.

Ultimately, the commission approved nine proposed revisions. Elements of the commission's nine proposals range from the symbolic, underscoring the rights of women to be treated equally with men, to the technical, formally changing the state's voting age from 21 to 18. The commission's recommendations appeared as amendments five through 13 on the November 3 ballot.

In addition to preparing proposals for the Nov. 3 ballot, the commission launched a million-dollar public campaign to educate Florida's voters on the proposed changes. The Florida Bar aided in this endeavor by producing a 10-minute video that explained each amendment. The Bar also assembled a cadre of attorney volunteers to speak to community groups throughout the state on the 13 proposed changes to the state Constitution.

On Nov. 3, 1998, Florida voters passed 12 of the 13 proposed constitutional amendments.
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D. Petition Initiatives

The sponsor of an initiative amendment, before obtaining signatures, must register as a political committee and submit the text of the proposed amendment to the Secretary of State, with the form on which the signatures will be affixed. The Secretary of State must approve the form. The sponsor then collects signatures and submits the forms signed and dated to the local supervisor of elections for verification as to the number of registered voters and verification of the signatures. The certificate of verification is then forwarded to the Secretary of State.

The Secretary of State must receive verification certificates from the Supervisors of Elections indicating that the requisite number and distribution of valid signatures of electors have been submitted to and verified by the Supervisors of Elections. Every signature is dated when made and is valid for a period of four years following such date. Certification by the Secretary of State must occur at least 90 days before the proposed revision is to appear on the ballot.

An initiative petition must comply with requirements set forth in the Florida Constitution and the Florida Statutes. The statute provides that "whenever a constitutional amendment . . . is submitted to the vote of the people, the substance of such amendment or other public measure shall be printed in clear and unambiguous language on the ballot.... The substance of the amendment . . . shall be an explanatory statement, not exceeding 75 words in length, of the chief purpose of the measure." The court does not review constitutional issues in its advisory opinion. It does not address the wisdom of the proposal nor the accuracy of the information used to promote the change.

The Attorney General must petition the Florida Supreme Court to determine whether the proposed initiative meets the above requirements. The court shall then issue an advisory opinion. The court scrutinizes the proposed amendment to determine that it in fact deals with only a single subject. The purpose of the single subject requirement is to avoid logrolling (coupling of popular causes with unpopular causes in order to increase chances of passing); guard against extreme changes in the constitution; and to direct voters' attention to the actual change being made.
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E. Proposed Amendments 1976 through 1998

There have been 100 proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot from 1976 through 2002, 66 of which were adopted. Eighteen proposals were on the ballot by citizen initiative, fifteen of which were adopted.

Mar. 3, 1976
Article VII, Section 9: authorizing and limiting local taxes for water management purposes (passed)

Nov. 2, 1976
(initiative) Article 2, Section 8: Sunshine Amendment (passed)
Article V, Sections 3, 10, 11: Retention of judges (passed)
Article V, Section 12: Discipline of judges (passed)
Article VII, Section 3: Bond for community redevelopment (failed)
Article VII, Section 16: Bonds for housing related facilities (failed)
Article II: Number of state employees (failed)
Article I, Section 18: Administrative Procedures Act (failed)
Article X: Retirement System (passed)
Article IV: Capitol and Mansion Commission (failed)

Nov. 7, 1978
Basic document Revision of Florida Constitution (failed)
Revision of Article I, Section 2: Declaration of rights (failed)
Revision of Article III, Section 16: Legislative (single­member districts and reapportionment commission) (failed)
Revision of Article IV, Section (g) 3,4,5,6,8(a) and Article XI, Section 2: Executive (Cabinet) (failed)
Revision of Article IV, Section 10, Article V, Section 3(b)(3): Executive (Public Service Commission and Public Counsel) (failed)
Revision of Article V, Sections 10 and 11 (a) and (b): Judiciary (Selection and retention of circuit and county judges) (failed)
Revision of Article VII; Article X, Section 12(h): Finance and taxation (failed)
Revision of Article IX: Education (failed)
(initiative) Article X, Section 15: Casino gambling (failed)

Mar. 11, 1980
Article VII, Section 6: Homestead exemption (passed)
Article V, Section 3: Modify jurisdiction of the Supreme Court (passed)

Oct. 7, 1980
Article VII, Section 3; Creation of Article XII, Section 18: Tax exemption (passed)
Article VII, Section 16; Article XII, Section 18: Bonds for housing (passed)
Article VII, Section 3: Ad valorem taxation (passed)
Article VII, Sections 6 and 8 Ad valorem taxation (passed)
Article VII, Section 4: Ad valorem taxation (passed)

Nov. 4, 1980
Article II, Section 5; Article XI, Sections 2 and 5: Abolish Constitutional Revision Commission (failed)
Article I, Section 23: Right of privacy (passed)
Article III, Section 7: Passage of bills (passed)
Article VII, Section 14: State bonds for water facilities (passed)
Article XII, Section 9: Second gas tax (passed)

Nov. 11, 1982
Article I, Section 12: Searches and seizures (passed)
Article I, Section 14: Pretrial release and detention (passed)

Nov. 6, 1984
Article X, Section 4: Exemption of homestead and personal property from forced sale (passed)
Article IV, Section 4: Disbursement of state funds (passed)
Article V, Section 11: Procedures of Judicial Nominating Commissions (passed)
Article III, Section 2: Speech and debate privilege (failed)
Article VIII, Section 1: Election of county commissioners single member districts (passed)
Article V, Section 8: Eligibility to be county court judge (passed)
Article VII, Section 11: Bonds for state capital projects (passed)
Article XII, Section 9: Public education capital outlay bonds - PECO (passed)

Nov. 4, 1986
Article IV, Section 4; Article V, Section 17: Statewide Prosecutor (passed)
(initiative) Article X, Section 15: Casino Gambling (failed)
Article VII, Section 6; Article XII, Section 20: Homestead tax exemption (failed)
Article IV, Section 10; Article V, Section 3: Supreme Court opinion on proposed initiatives (passed)
(initiative) Article X, Section 15: State operated lotteries (passed)

Nov. 8, 1988
Article III, Section 17: Impeachment of county court judges (passed)
Article I, Section 16: Right of victims of crime (passed)
Article VII, Section 4: Assessment of high water recharge lands (passed)
Article VII, Section 17: Bonds for acquisition of property for state roads or constructing bridges (passed)
Article VII, Section 3: Property tax exemption for widowers (passed)
Article II, Section 5; Article XI, Sections 2, 5 and 6: Taxation and Budget Reform Commission (passed)
Article V, Section 10: Terms of office for trial court judges (failed)
Article V, Section 1: Civil traffic hearing officers (passed)
Article IV, Sections 11 and 12: Departments of Veterans Affairs and Elderly Affairs (passed)
(initiative) Article I, Section 21: Limitation of non­economic damages in civil actions (failed)
(initiative) Article II, Section 9: English is the official language in Florida (passed)

Nov. 6, 1990
Article III, Section 3: Regular legislative sessions (passed)
Article I, Section 8: Three­day waiting period for handgun purchases (passed)
Article VII, Section 18: Laws affecting local governmental expenditures or ability to raise revenue or receive state tax revenue (passed)
Article III, Section 4: Open government (passed)

Nov. 3, 1992
Article VI, Section 5: Emergency suspension or delay of general election (passed)
Article I, Section 24; Article XII, Section 20: Access to public records and meetings (passed)
Article VII, Section 3: Historic Preservation ad valorem tax exemption (passed)
Creating Article III, Section 19: State budgeting, planning, and appropriations processes; revising Article IV, Section 1: Governor; creating Article IV, Section 13: Revenue shortfalls; revising Article XII, Section 9: Bonds improving accountability and public review in spending taxpayers' money and maintaining a balanced budget (passed)
Creating Article I, Section 24: Taxpayers' Bill of Rights (passed)
Article VII, Section 9: Authorizing municipalities and counties to levy a one­cent sales tax with local voter approval (failed)
Article XII, Section 9: Bonds for the construction of educational facilities (passed)
(initiative) Article VI, Section 4: Limited political terms in certain elective offices (passed)
(initiative) Article VII, Section 4: Homestead valuation limitation (passed)

Nov. 8, 1994
Article III, Section 3: Start of regular sessions (passed)
Article XII: limitation on state revenue collections (passed)
(initiative) Article X, Section 16: Limiting marine net fishing (passed)
(initiative) Article XI, Section 3: Revenue limits: many people's amendments limiting government revenue be allowed to cover multiple subjects (passed)
(initiative) Article X, Section 7: Limited casinos (failed)

Nov. 5, 1996
Article I, Subsections 4, 9, 16(a), 18, 23; Article II, Subsections 5(b), 8(g)-(i); Article III, Subsections 3(f), 8(a)-(b), 17(b)-(c), 18, 19(d); Article IV, Subsections 1(a) AND (c), 2, 3(b), 4(e), 7(a); Article V, Subsections 1, 2(a) AND (b), 3(a), 8, 10(a), 11(c), 17, 18, 20(c)(6) AND (9), 20(d)(8), 20 (e)(1); Article VII, Subsections 4(b) AND 6(b); Article IX, Section 5; Article X, Subsections 3 AND 4(a); Article XI, Subsections 3 AND 4(a); Article XI, Subsections 2 AND 6: Miscellaneous matters and technical revisions (passed)
(initiative) Article X, Section 17: Everglades Trust Fund (passed)
(initiative) Article II, Section 7: Resposibility for paying costs of water pollution abatement in Everglades (passed)
(initiative) Article VII, Section 9: Fee on Everglades sugar production (defeated)

Nov. 3, 1998
Article VII, Section 3 and 4: Article XII, Section 22: Historic property tax exemption and assessment (passed)
Article I, Section 17: Preservation of the death penalty. Prohibits reduction of a death sentence based on invalidity of execution method, and provides for continued force of sentence (passed)
Article VII, Section 6: Authorizes the Legislature to allow counties and municipalities to grant an additional homestead tax (passed)
Article VIII, Section 1: Proposes an amendment to the constitution authorizing the recording of instruments by filing at a branch office of a county seat (passed)
Article II, Section 7(a); Article IV, Section 9; Article VII, Section11(e)­(f); Article X, Section 18; Article XII, Section 22: Creates Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, granting it the regulatory and executive powers of the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission and the Marine Fisheries Commission (passed)
Article IX, Section 1: Declares the education of children to be a fundamental value of the people of Florida (passed)
Article V, Subsection 10, 11(a)­(b), 12(a), (f), 14; Article XII, Section 22: Provides for future local election to decide method of selecting circuit or county judges and allocates state courts system funding among state, counties and user of courts (passed)
Article II, Section 8(h)(1); Article III, Subsection 8(b), 16(b) and (f), 19(f)(3); Article IV, Subsections 3(b), 4, 7(a), and 8(a); Article VIII, Section 1(i); Article IX, Section 2; Article XI, Subsections 2(c), 3, 4, 5(a), and 6(e); Article XII, Subsections 9(c) and 22: Restructuring of the state Cabinet (passed)
Article I, Section 2: Defines "natural persons" basic rights (passed)
Article VII, Section 3(a), (f) and (g); Article VII, Section 7: Local and municipal property tax exemptions and citizens to local officials (failed)
Article IV, Section 5(a); Article VI, Subsections 1, 2, 5, 7; Article IX, Section 4(a): Ballot access, public campaign financing, and election process revisions (passed)
Article VIII, Section 5: Firearms purchases: local option for criminal history records check and waiting period (passed)
Article I, Subsections 4, 9, 16(a), 18, 23; Article II, Subsections 5(b), 8(g)­(i); Article III, Subsections 3(f), 8(a)­(b), 17(b)­(c), 18, 19(d); Article IV, Subsections 1(a) and (c), 2, 3(b), 4(e), 7(a); Article V, Subsections 1, 2(a) and (b), 3(a), 8, 10(a), 11(c), 17, 18, 20(c)(6) and (9), 20(d)(8), 20(e)(1); Article VII, Subsections 4(b) and 6(b); Article IX, Section 5; Article X, Subsections 3 and 4(a); Article XI, Subsections 2 and 6: Miscellaneous matters and technical revisions (passed)

Nov. 7, 2000
(Initiative) Article X, Section 19: Florida Transportation Initiative for statewide high speed monorail, fixed guideway or magnetic levitation system (passed)

Nov. 5, 2002
Article I, Section 17: Detailing cruel and unusual punishment; death penalty (passed)
(Initiative) Article X, Section 19: Limiting cruel and inhumane confinement of pigs during pregnancy (passed)
Article VIII, Section 6: Authorizing county voters to approve or disapprove slot machines within existing pai-mutuel facilities (defeated)
Article XI, Section 5: Economic impact statements for proposed constitutional amendments or revisions (passed)
Article VII, Section 4: Exemption for construction of living quarters for parents or grandparents (passed)
(Initiative) Article IX, Section 1: Amendment to reduce class size (passed)
Article I, Section 24: Laws providing public records or meetings exemptions; Two-thirds vote required (passed)
(Initiative) Article IX, Section 7: Local trustees and statewide governing board to manage Florida's university system (passed)
(Initiative) Article X, Section 20: Prohibiting workplace smoking (passed)
(Initiative) Article IX, Section 1: Voluntary universal Pre-Kindergarten education (passed)
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Florida Department of State, Division of Elections.
Florida Statutes, 1993.
Bertalen, John J., "Revising the Florida Constitution," Governing Florida, Vol. 4, No 1, Fall/Winter 1993, p. 23.
Lee, Robert W., "Pre­Election Initiative Review in Florida," The Florida Bar Journal, March 1995, p.14.
Maher, Stephen T., "The Conference on the Florida Constitution," The Florida Bar Journal, December 1994, p.66.
The 1968 Florida Constitution

Prepared byThe Florida Bar Department of Public Information and Bar Services with assistance of General Counsel and Governmental Affairs staff.

[Revised: 5/26/05]