Several amendments placed on November’s midterm ballot by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) tackled multiple unrelated issues. A Republican state Senator is trying to make sure that never happens again.
“This past election cycle there were several constitutional amendments on the ballot that contained more than one issue,” said Sen. Rob Bradley, District 5. “I think that’s a terrible way to amend our fundamental document for our state government, the constitution. I’ve filed a bill to end what I call bundling of these issues.”
The Fleming Island Republican, whose district includes Baker, Bradford, Clay, Columbia, Dixie, Gilchrist, Lafayette, Levy, Suwannee, Union, and part of Marion counties, filed Senate Joint Resolution 74 on Tuesday, Nov. 20, for consideration during the 2019 legislative session, which kicks off in March. The bill would amend the state constitution, requiring a single subject limit for any future proposed constitutional amendments filed by the CRC.
“There were several amendments that were bundled and I heard from several of my constituents that they were frustrated with this fact,” Bradley said, referring to the November 2018 midterm election. “As a voter, I was very frustrated with it as well. That’s why I decided to do something about it and filed the bill.”
One prominent example is amendment 9, approved by voters on Nov. 6, which combined a ban on offshore oil and gas drilling and a ban on vaping or smoking electronic cigarettes in indoor workplaces.
“Voters may support one of the issues that is included in the amendment and not support another issue that’s included in the amendment,” he said. “And that puts the voters in a situation that I think is unfair. Each idea and issue should be considered alone on its own merits, particularly when we’re dealing with the constitution.”
Attorney Tim Cerio, the former general counsel to Governor Rick Scott, was a member of the 2017-2018 CRC. He says they bundled issues for the voter’s benefit.
“A lot of what we did at the CRC was to hopefully promote ballot brevity, at least to some extent, and prevent voter fatigue,” Cerio said on WLRN’s Sundial prior to the election. He says that’s why they bundled 22 proposals into eight proposed amendments - for the voter’s sake.
According to Cerio, the last CRC bundled 36 proposals into nine amendments.
The CRC is a 37-member body that meets every 20 years to look at the Florida Constitution and propose changes for voter consideration. Fifteen commissioners are appointed by the governor, nine by the President of the state Senate, nine by the Speaker of the Florida House and three by the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. The state’s Attorney General automatically serves on the CRC and the governor designates the Chair.
The CRC meets regularly for about a year, travelling across the state to identify issues and recommend changes to the constitution. During that process they hold public hearings and consider proposed constitutional amendments submitted by the public.
Any proposals that pass the CRC’s final vote are placed on the General Election ballot where they have to get at least 60 percent voter approval to become law.
The commission won’t meet again until 2037, when they will begin considering measures to place on the 2038 ballot.
Sen. Bradley’s proposed constitutional amendment could go before voters in 2020. If passed, it would require any future measures from the commission to “embrace but one subject.”