Panel begins work to review changes to Florida Constitution

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A 37-member commission tasked with recommending changes to the Florida Constitution was sworn in Monday in a kickoff meeting that was more ceremonial than productive.

Gov. Rick Scott, House Speaker Richard Corcoran, Senate President Joe Negron and state Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga addressed the group and stressed the importance of its mission. The four government leaders appointed 36 of the members. Attorney General Pam Bondi is an automatic member.

“This is a great opportunity you have before you — a chance to impact Florida’s future,” Scott said. “”My hope is your work will ensure the continued economic success and prosperity of every citizen in our great state.”

The commission is formed once every 20 years to propose additions, deletions or revisions in the state’s constitution. It is the third such commission. In 1998, the commission placed nine proposed changes on the ballot and voters approved eight, including a restructuring of the state Cabinet, the creation of the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, an amendment guaranteeing equal rights and changes to the state elections processes.

The proposals the commission makes will go before voters in 2018. Unlike 1998, when a simple majority was needed to approve constitutional changes, any recommendations will need to be approved by 60 percent of voters.

The commission will be chaired by Carlos Beruff, a wealthy developer and friend of Scott’s who spent more than $8 million of his own money last year running for Senate. He lost the Republican primary to Sen. Marco Rubio.

The commission also has several past and current state lawmakers including former Senate President Don Gaetz and past Senate President and current Sen. Tom Lee. Its makeup is largely Republican, with the notable exceptions of former Democratic Sens. Chris Smith and Arthenia Joyner and current Sen. Darryl Rouson.

The commission will travel the state listening to citizens’ suggestions for constitutional changes, beginning with a meeting next week in Orange County. Beruff opted not to have members vote on proposed rules and procedures until its next meeting.

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