Florida Constitution Commission approves more transparency at Orlando meeting

By Jeff Allen, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, June 06, 2017, 9:36 PM EDT

A special state commission that could put proposed changes to Florida laws on the 2018 ballot met Tuesday in Orlando. Commissioners approved amended rules on how they will function after they were criticized by advocacy groups across the state.

  • Florida Constitution Revision Commission approved new rules
  • Rules will ensure more transparency, commissioners say
  • Commission will determine amendments for 2018 ballot

When the Florida Constitution Revision Commission last met 20 years ago, it recommended changes to the state’s death penalty law, the formation of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the requirement that people must get a criminal background check to buy a gun at a gun show. Voters passed all of those measures when they reached the ballot.

But before this year’s commission could look at which laws to change, it came under fire for how it was going to operate. Several advocacy groups across the state, including the League of Women Voters, accused the commission of trying to set rules they feared would create a lack of transparency.

“Our concern was that all meetings would be by the Sunshine Agreement and be open,” said Michele Levy, past president of League of Women Voters in Orange County.

On Tuesday, commissioners debated each other on which rules they should follow, even who would enforce those rules. Eventually, a majority of commissioners voted to adopt amended rules, rules similar to those the commission used 20 years ago.

“And so this is really good,” said Levy. “You can’t have two people at a meeting without the public knowing, and I just think the fact that at least we’re going to have rules that are more open.”

“We’ve now heard from thousands of people, literally thousands of people through public hearings and public submissions, that they had suggestions on our rules, and the proposal that was passed embraces most of those,” said Commissioner Brecht Heuchan.

And now, commissioners say they’re ready to focus on their job at hand – to consider changes to the state’s constitution.

“I’m pretty excited,” said Commission Chair Carlos Beruff. “Now we can do what Floridians want us to do, which is come up with any changes that would make their lives better in the future.”

The commission will hold several more public hearings around the state in the next year. Any changes the commission recommends making to the state’s constitution will be on the ballot in the 2018 general election.

The commission’s website is www.flcrc.gov.