TALLAHASSEE — After controversy last year about “bundled” ballot measures, a proposal is ready to go to the full Senate that would place new restrictions on the Florida Constitution Revision Commission.
The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday approved a measure (SJR 74) that would place a single-subject requirement on constitutional amendments placed on the ballot by the commission, which meets every 20 years.
If ultimately approved during the legislative session that started last week, the measure would go before voters in 2020 because it would involve changing the state Constitution.
The proposal is a direct response to five proposals that the commission put on the November ballot that tied together seemingly unrelated issues. For example, one proposal combined a ban on offshore oil drilling with a ban on vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes in workplaces.
Senate sponsor Rob Bradley, R-Fleming Island, said bundling multiple subjects into single amendments required some Floridians to vote for issues they opposed because those issues were anchored to other subjects they supported.
“The one complaint I heard from my constituents over and over again was, ‘What the heck was up with those constitutional amendments? They were addressing more than one issue. I really liked, for instance, the offshore drilling ban, but I was a little unsure of the vaping,’” Bradley said.
A separate proposal (SJR 362 and HJR 249) would abolish the Constitution Revision Commission, which has unique powers to put proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot. Those proposals have advanced in the House and Senate, with the House version scheduled to go before the House State Affairs Committee on Thursday.
Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican who served on the Constitution Revision Commission last year, called Bradley’s proposed change “appropriate.” He added that limiting the commission’s role to structural matters of state government also “could be helpful in narrowing down their focus.”
Last year the 37-member commission put seven proposed amendments on the ballot. Five included more than a single subject. All of those proposals were approved by voters.
One amendment, for example, dealt with payment of death benefits for first responders killed while performing official duties and the creation of a governance system for the 28 state and community colleges.
Another measure required all charter-county governments to have elected constitutional officers, including sheriffs. It also set the start of the annual legislative session in January in even-numbered years, created the Office of Domestic Security and Counterterrorism within the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and dealt with the state Department of Veterans’ Affairs.
The commission, whose members are mostly appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, doesn’t meet again until 2037.
On Tuesday, the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee backed a separate measure (SJR 690) by Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez, D-Miami, that would impose a similar single-subject requirement for constitutional amendments proposed by the Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission.
That commission, which also meets every 20 years, is set to meet in 2027 to review issues related to taxes and the state budget process.
Lawmakers also have the power to place proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot and are already barred from bundling multiple subjects into single measures.
A House proposal (HJR 53) would place single-subject requirements on the Constitution Revision Commission and the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission. That proposal has been approved by two House panels.