37 proposals on the way to the full CRC
By Gary Blankenship
Thirty-seven proposed amendments — only five dealing with Art. V issues — have cleared committee review at the Constitution Revision Commission and are headed for consideration by the full body.
The CRC concluded substantive committee meetings February 2 and then embarked on several weeks of public hearings on its preliminary proposals.
It’s still possible that proposals that were defeated in committee could be revived by a majority vote for debate by the full CRC. However, any proposal that goes to voters in November requires the vote of 22 of the commission’s 37 members.
After its initial public hearings and public input, the commission had 103 proposals, two derived directly from by citizen proposals and several others suggested by commissioners based on what they heard from the public. Many of the proposals were withdrawn because they were similar to other suggested amendments or it was obvious there was little support. A handful of “shell” amendments were proposed to allow for technical changes to be introduced in the committees.
The court-related amendments that are advancing raise the judicial retirement age, increase the experience required when lawyers want to become trial judges, regulate lobbying activities by former judges and justices, mandate that the Legislature sets fees and costs to compensate court clerks for their expenses in handling criminal cases and other matters where there are no filing fees, and repeal the “Chevron doctrine,” as applied in Florida, requiring judges to give weight to governmental interpretations of laws and rules.
Commissioner Bill Schifino, a immediate past Bar President, noted in one of his presentations that the 1997-98 CRC had 189 issues considered by the full commission, compared to the relatviely few this year.
Below are the 37 proposals that cleared the initial committee review. The first five affect Art. V., the remaining ones cover a variety of topics ranging from requiring that the lieutenant governor head up a state department to setting term limits for school board members to making it harder to pass future constitutional amendments:
• P-6 creates Art. V., §21, requiring state courts and administrative law judges to review any state law or rule de novo without giving deference to an administrative agency’s interpretation.
• P-39 creates a new section in Art. V and Art. II restricting lobbying activities of former elected officials and public employees, including judges, once they have left office. The amendment contains an exemption for former judges and justices who in the course of their law practices are representing clients.
• P-41 amends Art. V and Art. XII to raise the mandatory retirement age for judges and justices from 70 to 75. Unlike the current provision, judges and justices who reach 75 after serving more than half of their terms would not be able to finish those terms.
• P-47 adds a section to Art. V requiring that lawyers must have been licensed for 10 years (at least the previous five by The Florida Bar) before seeking any state judgeship. Currently, lawyers can seek trial court positions after five years in the Bar, and 10 years of Florida Bar membership is required for appellate judges.
• P-55 amends Art. V, §14, requiring the Legislature to set filing fees, services charges, and other costs sufficient to cover costs by clerks of court for criminal cases and other cases where parties do not pay filing fees.
• P-3 repeals in Art. 1, §2, language which prohibited aliens from owning real property in Florida.
• P-4 repeals in Art. 1, §3, the prohibition against spending public dollars in aid of any religious institution.
• P-9 amends Art. IV, §11, to require rather than authorize the Legislature to provide for the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, defining its duties, and specifying that the governor and Cabinet head the department.
• P-10 amends Art. IX requiring the Legislature to provide for civic literacy in public education.
• P-11 amends Art. VI, §5, to open a primary election to all voters if all the candidates who file belong to one party and the primary winner will be opposed only by write-in candidates in the general election. This was one of the amendments suggested by the public, in this case 15th Circuit State Attorney David Aronberg, and was sponsored on the CRC by Commissioner Sherry Plymale.
• P-12 deletes Art. X, §19, repealing an obsolete provision regarding high-speed rail.
• P-13 amends Art. VII, §§1 and 6, to remove the ability of counties adopting charters or passing any other special law that would provide for the selection of constitutional officers, such as court clerks, sheriffs, and supervisors of election, by any other method than election.
• P-20 amends Art. X, §9, and provides that repeal of a criminal statute will not affect the prosecution of any crime committed under that statute before its repeal.
• P-26 amends Art. IV, §4, to establish the Office of Domestic Security and Counter-Terrorism within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Part of that amendment specifies that county sheriffs, after consulting with local “stakeholders,” is in charge of security for “county owned or operated courthouses, court facilities, and court service buildings.”
• P-29 creates a new section in Art. X requiring employers to verify new employees are eligible and not illegal aliens by using the federal government’s Employment Authorization Program or any successor program.
• P-33 creates a new section in Art. IX to require that school superintendents be appointed by local school boards instead of being elected.
• P-34 amends several provisions in Art. I’s declaration of rights to make technical and clarifying changes and delete provisions that have become obsolete.
• P-37 creates a new section in Art. X to prohibit the naming of public buildings, programs, or other facilities after local or state elected officials unless they have left office and the naming legislation contains no other subjects or provisions.
• P-43 amends Art. IX, §4, to set term limits for school board members.
• P-44 amends Art. IX, §7, setting vote requirements on university boards of trustees and the Board of Governors of the State University System to increase tuition or fees.
• P-45 amends Art. IX, §1, to say that nothing in the Constitution that requires the Legislature to provide a quality free education prevents it from “making provision for other educational services that benefit the children and families of this state that are in addition to the system of free public schools.”
• P-49 adds a section to Art. X to establish rights to certain death benefits for survivors of specified first responders and military members.
• P-50 amends Art. III, §15, to require that legislative candidates must live in the districts where they are running when they qualify for office, except in the election following a reapportionment.
• P-54 adds a section to Art. X to prohibit the state from limiting the number of heathcare facilities and services through the issuing of certificates of need.
• P-65 amends Art. X, §20, to prohibit the use of “vapor-generating electronic devices in enclosed indoor workplaces.”
• P-66 amends Art. IV, §2, to require the governor to assign the lieutenant governor as the head of any state department.
• P-67 amends Art. X and Art. XII to prohibit greyhound racing.
• P-71 amends Art. IX, §4, to authorize the Legislature to enact general laws providing alternative ways to establish charter schools in the state.
• P-72 creates a new section in Art. VII requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to impose or raise any state tax or fee and that any such new or raised tax must be in a separate bill with no other subject.
• P-83 creates a new section in Art. IX to “specify the purposes of the State College System and to provide for governance of the system.”
• P-88 creates a new section in Art. I to set rights for people living in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
• P-91 amends Art. X, §7, to prohibit drilling for oil and natural gas in specified coastal waters.
• P-93 amends Art. IX, §4, to allow “high-performing school districts to become charter districts.”
• P-94 amends Art. X, §27, to require that the state’s comprehensive tobacco education and prevention program include cancer research.
• P-96 amends Art. I, §16, to revise and establish additional rights for victims of crime.
• P-97 amends Art. XI, §5, to require that future constitutional amendments must be approved by 60 percent of the voters going to the polls in that election, not 60 percent casting ballots on the amendment itself.
• P-103 amends Art. III, §3, to provide that in even numbered years the Legislature will convene in January instead of March.
Complete details about all of the amendments and the CRC’s meeting and hearing schedule can be found on the commission website, flcrc.gov. Its proposed amendments must be submitted to the secretary of state by May 10 to appear on the general election ballot on November 6.