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What Florida voters need to know about Amendment 2 before Election Day

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The fate of the Constitutional Revision Commission, which can make changes to the Florida Constitution without a public vote, could be decided during the Nov. 8 statewide general election.

Some say it is an extension of the will of voters, others believe it’s a too-powerful tool exposing the state constitution to unnecessary change.

In November, Floridians will decide the fate of the Constitutional Revision Commission.

VOTER GUIDE: Key dates, how to vote, and what you need to know ahead of Florida's elections

The 37-person commission, created in 1968, meets every 20 years. It stands to be abolished by the second of three amendments on the statewide ballot next month.

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The CRC refers constitutional changes directly for a public vote and bypassing the typical amendment process, which requires either a 60% vote in the House and Senate or a citizen’s petition with 8% or more signatures of the total votes in the previous presidential election.

Controversy fell upon the commission after 2017, which was the third time since its creation in 1968 that the Florida CRC operated. It placed seven amendments on the ballot in 2018, all of which passed. However, the amendments were criticized over what some called misleading language that was a result of the bundling of different legislative issues, such as bans on offshore drilling and indoor vaping.

Two of those passed amendments — Amendment 8 and 13 — were later removed by court rulings, according to Ballotpedia.

The amendment on the Nov. 8 ballot was introduced by state Sen. Jeff Brandes in 2020 and passed by a 27-12 margin in the Senate, according to Ballotpedia.

State Rep. Mike Beltran, who sponsored the House resolution to place the issue on the ballot, said he believes the unelected body “short circuits” the checks and balances that are in place to get amendments on the balot. This, he said, puts constitutional rights in danger.

ALSO READ: What Florida voters need to know about Amendment 1 before Election Day

“Do you want it to be easy to take away free speech?” Beltran said. “And say ‘we can’t go through the legislature and try to limit free speech, that’s too much trouble, let’s just do it in a cigar-filled room.’ ”

Beltran is also concerned that CRC commissioners are representative of Tallahassee insiders, or those who are close to the elected officials that appoint commissioners, rather than everyday voters.

“It’s just like a vanity thing,” he said.

Commissioners are made up of 15 appointees from the governor, nine from the Florida Senate president, nine from the Speaker of the Florida House, three from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the sitting state Attorney General at the time.

Those who oppose passing Amendment 2 believe the CRC is a powerful extension of voters’ access to legislative changes.

Carol Weissert, a Professor Emerita in political science at Florida State University and the former director of the LeRoy Collins Institute, says the concept is “directly Jeffersonian” in that it is designed to convene every 20 years. This gives each generation a chance to amend the constitution, like thinker Jefferson suggested for the country’s founding document.

ALSO READ: What Florida voters need to know about Amendment 3 before Election Day

Rather than a full abolition of the commission, Weisser suggests placing limitations on it – including a ban on bundling issues, similar to the amendments that made it onto the 2018 ballot, as well as excluding elected officials.

“Let’s have it be citizens,” Weissert said. “It’s a citizen’s commission.”

Weissert said she is concerned that if Amendment 2 passes, most citizens would not even notice its absence.

A LeRoy Collins Institute survey found that most Floridians were completely unaware of the CRC. However, when asked about the idea of a commission capable of putting amendments directly on the ballot, 87% were in favor of the concept.

Weissert said it would be one more way that citizens won’t be able to directly affect policy in the state.

“This is an effort to take away citizens’ rights in Florida,” Weissert said.