Is 13 a truly unlucky or lucky number? In one instance, Florida voters will make the call.
The latest incarnation of the state Constitution Revision Commission is history. The 37 members adjourned last week after settling on eight proposed amendments for the November 6 general election ballot.
“We were called the ‘Tribal Elders of the State’ in the sense that we were people who broadly represented the state and broadly represented different interests,” said Former state Senator Don Gaetz of Niceville, the lone CRC member from the Panhandle.
Amendment 12, dealing with changing the state’s ethics law, is his baby. If approved by 60 percent of voters, it would be the toughest lobbying ban in the nation.
“For the most part, it means that if you’re everybody from a former governor to a former member of the school board, you cannot lobby for six years after you leave office,” Gaetz said. “You can’t lobby the entity that you are a part of, and in most cases you can’t lobby other parts of government, either.”
Amendment 12 would also ban officeholders, elected or appointed, from receiving disproportionate private gain. The Florida Board of Ethics would decide such cases.
Six of the amendments bundle together multiple issues. One is a proposed ban on offshore oil and gas drilling, along with a ban on vaping in the workplace. Gaetz says that’s a standard CRC practice going back 40 years.
“We had over 100 individual proposals, so we used a committee process [and] public hearings to winnow it down,” said Gaetz. “But then we did what prior Constitutional Revision Commissions have done, and that is some like proposals have been grouped together. It’s something that’s impossible to avoid, if you want to have a short enough ballot that people will actually read it.”
Another proposal hitting close to home is Amendment 13, prohibiting greyhound racing at Florida tracks, such as Pensacola Greyhound Park beginning on January 1, 2021. Gaetz is a co-sponsor.
“It’s cruel; it’s found to be extraordinarily inhumane; the dogs are treated very, very badly,” Gaetz says. And so it seemed to me that it was time for Florida to join the other 40 states in banning this inhumane treatment of animals.”
The members of the Constitutional Revision Commission were appointed by Governor Rick Scott; the Florida Supreme Court, and the Speaker of the Florida House and President of the State Senate. Scott, who’s running for the U.S. Senate, provided what Gaetz calls “a very heavy hand” over the panel.
“He wanted to make sure, I think, that those proposals he felt might cause controversy in his Senate election [bid] didn’t get to the ballot. That’s politics,” said Gaetz. “But I believe the Commission as a whole worked well together.”
With the CRC’s work now complete, Don Gaetz says the fate of the constitutional proposals is now in the hands of the voters.
“Are these eight propositions worthy to be placed into the governing documents of our state?” asked Gaetz. “The voters have to decide by a 60 percent-plus one majority to add any of these provisions to the constitution.”
The CRC, which meets every 20 years and is the only panel of its kind in the U.S., will add to the ballot its eight proposed amendments to the three from the Legislature and two approved in petition drives.