Sometimes it only comes around every twenty years!
As a former educator, I believe the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) is a great opportunity to get young people directly involved in the sometimes far-away process of government. Knowing that someone “who can directly affect their lives” is listening on the other side is a tremendous motivator for students.
For instance, when I taught eighth-grade persuasive and expository writing, I had my students address their essays to Mr. Tony George who served on our local school board. After a classroom discussion about what a school board was, and what these board members do, the students wrote in their very best handwriting applying similes, metaphors, quotes, and first-hand experiences in an effort to persuade Mr. George to consider allowing gum-chewing, letting up on the dress code, providing more activities and after school sports … basically, any subject of their choice.
I was amazed at the increased motivation of the young people once they knew they were really writing to “somebody” and not “just writing.” The highlight of the experience was when Mr. George in red pen commented on each of the papers, and later, personally, returned them to our classroom having written his own persuasive essay in response. I read it aloud and the students noted his use of technique in the persuasive arena. It was fun! Without even realizing it, students learned about local government, politics, and most important, became motivated to express themselves in writing.
The Constitution Revision Commission of 2017/18 provides an even greater opportunity to give students an impromptu real-world civics lesson about the role of state constitutions and the difference between state and federal government. To get started, you can follow these steps for your lesson plan:
Introduce the CRC at gov noting that the Florida Constitution is up for review.
Introduce students to the chair and commissioners, the people they will be writing: gov/Commissioners.
Review the Florida Constitution’s twelve articles and selected sections: gov/Constitution.
Remind students that if they are thirteen years old today, in twenty years they will be thirty-three! Put students in groups to brainstorm and discuss what they think will be most important to the state over the next twenty years, and have them figure out what article and section of the constitution their proposal or ideas fits best.
Show students how they can create their own proposals, applying their best English class skills, by using tools on the CRC website to redact or add language: gov/Proposals/Submit.
The deadline being considered for public proposals is September 22, so please submit ideas soon! Student proposals can be submitted on-line gov/Proposals/Submit, emailed to the commission at email@example.com, or sent in the mail to: Constitution Revision Commission, The Capitol, 400 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, FL 32399. If there is not a particular commissioner your class wishes to write, you are welcome to address them to me.
I hope you’ll get your classroom involved. Real-world learning is so effective and fun. Of course, the main motivator is that getting involved with the CRC is a rare, teachable moment, that only comes around once every twenty years!
Part #2 in a series about the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) and how to get involved, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 8-21-17
How Do I Submit My Idea For a Constitutional Amendment to Florida’s CRC?
The Florida Constitution belongs to the people of Florida and is the foundational document of our state government. In that same spirit, I am issuing an open invitation to all interested Floridians to get involved in the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). Don’t be afraid! The CRC is for you, the public.
Although the words “Constitution Revision Commission” may sound intimidating, the process is not. Getting involved is easy, and you have many options to share your comments, ideas, and proposals with the CRC.
As commissioners, our job is to examine the Florida Constitution and propose changes for voter consideration on Florida’s 2018 General Election ballot. During this process, we consider proposed constitutional changes submitted by Floridians.
*PUBLIC PROPOSAL FILING DEADLINE (SEPTEMBER 22): The CRC is considering September 22 as the deadline to submit public proposals. Many have already been submitted. We encourage all interested Floridians to submit their proposals as soon as possible!
The commission wants to hear about issues that matter most to Floridians, and there are steps you can take to ensure you submit a compelling proposal that best articulates your position. When creating a proposed change or idea for the Florida Constitution, I suggest you conduct personal research and follow these six (6) steps and see links below:
1. Decide if there are issues that you think the state legislature is ignoring or not putting enough emphasis upon – something so important that it would need to be in our state constitution versus other areas of state or local law.
2. Review Florida’s state constitution. It consists of 12 articles and is available online at flcrc.gov/Constitution. After reviewing, decide which section of the state constitution is most relevant to your specific issue.
3. Review concise and clear writing procedures, such as “The Elements of Style” by William Strunk. There are also many free resources available online.
4. Go to flcrc.gov/Proposals/Submit to create a free account and submit your proposed change to the Florida Constitution. The online tool allows you to create your proposal using legal language by redacting or adding language. Remember to keep it simple and clear.
5. Using the same program, submit your proposal to the CRC and sign up for the alert emails. Commissioners will review proposals and determine which proposals should be considered to be placed on Florida’s 2018 General Election ballot.
6. You can advocate for your proposals by contacting CRC Commissioners directly via email or phone (flcrc.gov/Commissioners). Better yet, attend a public hearing if one is scheduled in your area at a future date (flcrc.gov/Meetings/PublicHearings).
Remember, the CRC wants your involvement and the process is meant for you! If you do not want to use the online submission tool you can also email the CRC at firstname.lastname@example.org or send us your proposal in the mail at the following address:
Constitution Revision Commission
400 S. Monroe St.
Tallahassee, FL 32399
Thank you for getting involved and for caring about the great state of Florida!
Part #1 in a series about the Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) and how to get involved, Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch, 8-11-17
Who or what is the CRC?
Have you heard about Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission?
Don’t feel bad if you don’t know what it is. Apparently according to a Florida Bar contact, of new members polled in 2017, only 19 percent knew what it was! This makes sense perhaps, as it only convenes once every 20 years.
So what is it anyway?
The Constitution Revision Commission, or CRC for short, is a powerful entity composed of 37 members that meets to examine the Florida Constitution and propose changes for voter consideration. It’s powerful because any constitutional amendments proposed by this entity go directly onto Florida’s 2018 General Election ballot. Thirty six members – or Commissioners as they are called – are appointed by the (15) Governor, (9) Senate President, (9) House Speaker and the (3) Florida Supreme Court Justice. The (1) Attorney General is automatically a member.
I am proud to serve as a Commissioner on the CRC, and for the past few months I have been traveling across the state along with other commissioners to encourage Floridians to share their ideas regarding the Florida Constitution, and boy they have! Over 800 ideas or proposals have been submitted so far this year. (https://www.flcrc.gov/Proposals/Public)
Although thousands of Floridians have come to meet with us at public hearings, we have a lot more work to do to ensure citizens understand the CRC and know more about this historic process. Therefore, I am writing this blog series.
When and why was the CRC created?
The CRC formally came into being in 1968 when it was created by Article XI, Section 2 of the Florida Constitution. The CRC was part of several changes ratified by Florida voters that year, during an era when Florida was under great pressure for reform.
In the years leading up to the 1968 changes to the Florida Constitution, many believed that the legislature was not adequately representing voters. For many years, state politics had been dominated by a group of lawmakers known as the Florida “Pork Chop Gang,” who held disproportionate influence and power in north Florida although the majority of the population now lived in the central and southern parts of the state. They held on to their power at all costs.
This disproportionate power and influence began to crumble following a 1962 federal law suit entitled Baker vs. Carr, that determined “…redistricting issues enabled federal courts to intervene in state redistricting cases.” As Florida was held to be in violation of representative districts, in 1966, Florida’s legislature was federally dissolved and all members had to “go home” and later run under newly-created districts. Can you image! After re-election, representation from Florida’s highly populated cities was prominent for the first time.
The “reapportionment revolution” of the 1960s established the principle of “one man, one vote.” Change doesn’t come easy. It was tumultuous time with the Civil Rights Movement; desegregation of schools; women’s rights; the Vietnam War; the counterculture movement; and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy, and later civil rights legend, Martin Luther King Jr. among others – – broadcast on the new medium of television– made “it” impossible to ignore.
In unison with the aforementioned upheavals, and “seeing the writing on the wall,” the Florida constitution was being updated from its archaic 1885 amended version, that remained in use, to something more “representative.” The state legislature had created the 1965/66 Constitution Revision “Committee” to research and make recommendations of reform to the legislature. Thus the CRC was born! It was that early “CRC” that put forth the idea of a bi-decade Constitution Revision “Commission.” It was soon after approved by the state legislature in landmark changes of the 1968 legislature and the “new” constitution.
The “every 20 year CRC” remains unique to Florida.
In closing, beloved Chesterfield Smith, chair of the 1965-68 legislative constitution revision committee, had a lot to be proud of, but it was the CRC he considered the diamond of his efforts.
“It is my own personal judgement that above all other matters, the new provisions in the 1968 Constitution authorizing means for further constitutional law changes are the most important things in the new constitution.” – Chesterfield Smith
We may ask, “why did Chesterfield Smith think the CRC, part of the provisions authorizing further constitutional change, was such an important legacy?”
It was an important legacy because Mr Smith and other leaders who lived through that unforgettable era wanted to ensure that such times, and a constitution so out of step with the people, would never happen again!
In upcoming posts, I’ll discuss how the CRC has evolved over time and how Floridians can get involved. For now, learn more at www.flcrc.gov, which includes an online submission tool that allows you to create and submit proposed constitutional amendments to the CRC. The proposed deadline for accepting proposals is September 22, 2017!
Tonight I am speaking for the first time in public as a commissioner of the 2017/18 Florida Constitution Revision Commission. I have been invited to present to the Martin County NAACP. Everyone is invited. I am very excited about this, and am sharing my notes so others who may not be able to attend can also be part.
As this entire process is “historic,” I have decided to include this experiences on my blog. Please note this post is “in the Sunshine,” will be archived in my CRC email, and open to the public. All comments made will be public record.
NOTES FOR NAACP/CRC TALK 6-15-17
I am proud to present to the Martin County National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Getting involved in Florida’s 2017/2018 Constitution Revision Commission process will be rewarding!
My name is Jacqui Thurlow-Lippisch. My family has been in Stuart since 1952, and I was part of the first desegregated class to attend Stuart’s Parker Annex, known today as J.D. Parker Elementary. I have many friends in Stuart’s black community; I graduated from both Stuart Middle School and Martin County High School. After graduating from the University of Florida and University West Florida, I worked as a public school teacher and as a real estate agent.
In 2008, I ran for public office, and after a decade of pubic service as mayor/commissioner of Sewall’s Point, (as well narrowly losing a race for Martin County Commissioner in 2016) I was chosen by Senate President Joe Negron to serve on the 2018 Constitution Revision Commission, or “CRC” for short. Quite an honor! I am very thankful to Senate President Joe Negron for giving me this opportunity to serve the people of Florida and expand my experience.
Today my goal for you is to briefly cover the CRC’s history; discuss the CRC “today;” and review how to submit a proposal to the CRC for consideration to go before the voters as a constitutional amendment, on the ballot, in November 2018.
The handouts cover much more material than I will be able to cover in the next thirty minutes and are excellent resources.
The history of the Florida constitution is the history of Florida itself.
I recommend two books: Making Modern Florida, by Mary E. Adkins, and The Florida State Constitution, 2nd Edition, by Talbot “Sandy” D’Alemberte. Both are great resources on this subject.
The books discuss:
Florida as a territory and entering the union as a slave state in 1845; succession from the Union in 1861, military occupation following the Civil War; the finally “recognized” constitution of 1885 (and its many others!); overcoming the power of the “Pork Chop Gang”; Reapportionment; and the landmark case of 1962, Baker v. Carr enabling U.S.Federal Courts to intervene in the voting boundaries of the states…
This did happened in 1966, leading to upheaval and redistricting, creating “modern Florida” and its 1968 constitution that is the basis of Florida today.
So what is the CRC and why does it exist? Why does it happen only every 20 years?
Professor D’Alemberte notes with all the political and social instability of the 1960s, it was born…
“in 1965 every effort was made to revise Florida’s constitution when the legislature enacted a statutory CRC, and in 1968 the new constitution had substantial changes relating to the amendatory process. In addition to the two traditional methods of constitutional change: constitutional convention and legislative proposals, the 1968 document added the process of the independent Constitution Revision Commission.“
Chair off the 1968 commission, Chesterfield Smith, stated:
“It is my own personal judgement that above all other matters, the new provisions in the 1968 Constitution authorizing means for further constitutional law changes are the most important things in the new constitution.”
The state never wanted to be in a position again like it was in the 1960s having the federal government tell it what to do…
So since 1968, every twenty years, there is the possibility and encouragement, if needed, for constitutional change through the CRC process, so that the voices of the people will be heard and recorded.
(Yes there are other ways too, but this is the most direct, in that amendments go directly on the ballot.)
The CRC is made up of 37 people. 15 are chosen by the Governor; 9 by the President of the Senate, 9 by the Speaker of the House; and 3 by the Chief of the Florida Supreme Court; the Attorney General is automatically a member. The chair, one of the governors’ 15, is Mr Carlos Beruff.
Let’s look at the diversity of the members:
I think it is a good representation for Florida, however, it must be noted that the commission like Tallahassee right now, is predominantly republican.
We can see there are 22 men; 15 women; 14 minorities. Other notes include 14 attorneys; 5 legislators; 3 former senators, 1 former house representative; 5 other elected officials such as sheriff, clerk, county commissioner, school board member and attorney general; at least 10 educators; including business owners and 3 developers.
Over the past few months, the commission has held numerous public hearings entitled “listening tours” across the state and during this time the public has proposed over 400 unique proposals and 900 all together!
I will read some of the topics that have come up and the order they were presented during one of the listening tours. Please note I am not going to say if I am for or against. This is just to share so you have an idea of what’s coming up. You can watch all of the hearings on the Florida Channel: http://thefloridachannel.org
~Voting rights for ex. felons; Amd. 1 Art. 23, privacy and abortion; Legislature’s failure to implement the 2014 citizen’s initiative, Land and Water Legacy; open primaries; issues with write in candidates; insuring veteran’s health; clean water and air as a right; more solar energy; gun rights; gun control; transparency in government; equal rights amendment; right to assisted suicide; right to life; bear hunting; fair districts; non discrimination; independent redistricting; universal background checks/guns; home rule and local government; school choice; support of public schools; term limits for judges; no term limits for judges; cruelty to greyhound dogs/no racing…there are many more!
SUBMITTING A PROPOSAL
In closing, I will share with you how you can submit a proposal and am happy to answer any questions.
An excellent and easy way to submit a proposal is on-line: (above)
So proposals can be submitted on-line, emailed; US mailed, or turned in by hand at a public meeting.
Once committees are in place, all proposals will be referred to the correct committee and here it will be determined if the proposal will go before the entire commission for a vote.
So far there are more proposals than 1978 or 1998 and we are far from the finish line!
To give you an idea of past approval numbers: 1998 CRC, nine constitutional amendments went on the ballot and eight were voted and approved by the public to go into the Florida Constitution. 1978 CRC, not one put on the ballot made it. Back then the threshold was 50%; today it is 60%. The Constitution should not be changed easily!
You, the voters, will decide!
So thank you again, get involved and know I am here to help you with the process of making sure your voice is heard and Florida’s constitution is relevant, living and real.