Pensacola is one of the stops for the Constitution Revision Commission, as it began public hearings in five cities across Florida on Tuesday. The local hearing is set for February 27 at the University of West Florida.
The 37-member Commission kicked off its tour at Nova Southeastern University in Fort Lauderdale, after spending the past few months going through more than 100 proposed amendments.
Speaking on The Florida Channel, CRC Chairman Carlos Beruff says their work has to be finished by May 10.
“We will be having the final votes in April, so that we can make our recommendations to what goes on the ballot to May the 10.”
Originally, 103 proposed constitutional amendment were submitted to the Commission. CRC member Don Gaetz, a former Senate President from Niceville, says at this point 37 remain alive.
Gaetz is either the main sponsor or co-sponsor of a number of surviving proposals. One is to give the lieutenant governor, as he puts it, a “real job.”
“We have had some lieutenant governors who have done great things,” said Gaetz. “And so I am sponsoring one with Sen. Tom Lee, a proposal that would have the governor use the lieutenant governor to head one of the ten executive departments.”
Another Gaetz-Lee collaboration would end greyhound racing in Florida. That, says Gaetz, is an idea whose time has come and is better addressed in the state constitution because of the powerful dog racing lobby that Gaetz says spreads money around in the Legislature.
“If we can place this matter before the voters of Florida, we’ll let them decide,” Gaetz says. “My guess is that the voters of Florida believe that Florida ought to join 41 other states and eliminate dog racing, and the cruel and inhumane treatment that seems to be part of this culture and industry.”
Other measures on which Gaetz has attached his name as the primary sponsor include a comprehensive ethics proposal, which would raise the standards of public ethics in Florida above those of the other 49 states.
“It would eliminate the ability of public officeholders, whether they’re at the local or state level, to become lobbyists for six years after leaving office,” Gaetz says. “We’ve had to fight back some efforts to water it down.”
The public hearing at UWF’s Conference Center (Building 22) will be the first time the CRC has held a hearing west of Panama City. All the public hearings are scheduled to run from 1-7 p.m. After the final hearing in St. Petersburg on March 13, Gaetz says it’s back to Tallahassee and the state Senate Chamber.
“We’ll each have an opportunity to present the proposals we’ve sponsored; we’ll vote them up or down,” says CRC member Don Gaetz. “They don’t go before the [Florida] Supreme Court; they don’t get approved by the governor, they don’t go to the Legislature. The 37 of us decide what goes onto the ballot.”
When the CRC finishes its work for another two decades, Chairman Carlos Beruff is already thinking about the commission’s legacy – the first part of which he says, is to do no harm.
“If we do nothing, it’s OK, but we definitely don’t want to anything that’s bad,” Beruff told The Florida Channel. “We’re contemplating a constitutional amendment to restrict oil drilling in (sic) our coast. The benefit of that will [go] way beyond this 20 years and the next 20 years.”
More information on the Constitution Revision Commission and its work can be found at www.flcrc.gov.