Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Helping to Shape Florida's Constitution

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Helping to Shape Florida's Constitution

Article excerpt

The spirit of democracy was evident as scores of people from Northeast Florida shared their thoughts and hopes with the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.

Citizens made their way to the two microphones installed on both sides of the auditorium stage at Florida State College's Kent campus. Once there, they had two minutes to state their opinions on how the state's Constitution should protect their rights and frame their lives.

Some of the issues were deeply and painfully felt; other issues inspired dismay and even anger.

"This is an example of the gold standard of representative democracy," Duval County Judge Gary Flower said after watching a portion of the hearing. "You're seeing people bringing the contents to the factory so sausage can be made."

Left unsaid is that sometimes the sausage is not made. In many cases, Florida citizens seek to amend the state's Constitution because their elected leaders in the Legislature are unwilling to do their jobs.

One amendment that is needed is to close the write-in loophole that prevents many Florida citizens from voting in elections. Under Florida law, if only one party has candidates for an election, that race needs to be opened to all voters. But a write-in candidate can close that primary, often for sham candidates.

The Legislature is unlikely to close that loophole because political parties like having advantages - usually Democrats in South Florida and Republicans in North Florida.

There are several ways to amend the state's Constitution. One way involves petitions signed by the citizens. Think Medical marijuana or redistricting.

Another way is through proposals from the Legislature itself.

A RARE OPPORTUNITY

The Constitution Revision Commission comes around every 20 years when 37 people are convened to consider changes to the Florida Constitution. They were in Jacksonville - one of many locations throughout the state.

The commission's purpose is to recommend constitutional changes that will appear on the statewide ballot in 2018. And commissioners received a nearly five-hour earful of what attendees believe those changes should be.

Tears were shed on more than one occasion as speakers related stories of cancers fought, fellow veterans who have died, hopes of college degrees dashed and people in need of organ transplants. Speakers argued for and against legalized abortion, in favor of college aid and both for and against gun laws.

To signal their agreement or displeasure, audience members were given green or red cards as audience members spoke. Several people even questioned the commission itself.

Why, one asked, are commission members appointed by those in power in Florida, instead of being selected by citizens themselves? It gives the impression that the Legislature itself has overly influenced the results. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.