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.
(The Florida Constitution: http://www.leg.state.fl.us/statutes/index.cfm?submenu=3)
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.
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!
See link for 2017/18 members, as nicely summarized by AIF: http://aif.com/crc/members.html
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!
1987/1998 CRCs AIF: http://aif.com/crc/history.html
2017/18 CRC, Florida Bar: http://floridabar.org/public/crc/
C-Sapn Landmark Cases, 1962 Baker vs Carr: http://landmarkcases.c-span.org/Case/10/Baker-V-Carr
The US Constitution Project 1964 Baker vs Simms “One Person, One Vote:” https://www.theconstitutionproject.com/portfolio/one-person-one-vote/