Gun rights, voting issues among the top suggestions
The Florida Constitution Revision Commission’s “Floridians Speak, We Listen” tour made a stop in Jacksonville on Thursday and heard a wide range of suggestions from the public related to how the state’s most fundamental laws might be amended by voters in about 18 months.
The commission is a group of 37 members appointed by the governor, state senate president, speaker of the house, chief justice of the Supreme Court and state attorney general. The process only takes place every 20 years.
After getting input from the public, the commission may make recommendations for constitutional amendments that could be placed on the November 2018 general election ballot.
If amendments are placed on the ballot, they will require a 60 percent majority from voters to be enacted.
Jacksonville attorney Hank Coxe, who was appointed to the commission by Chief Justice Jorge Labarga, said after the meeting at Florida State College at Jacksonville’s Kent Campus — the commission’s sixth public hearing — that he’s noticed some trends.
“People are similar in what they talk about and the strength with which they talk. I’m impressed with their preparation,” Coxe said.
On Thursday, the commission heard proposals ranging from leadership to gun control and elections.
District 12 State Rep. Lake Ray from Jacksonville suggested an addition to the state’s top leadership.
He’s also president of the First Coast Manufacturers Association, and after pointing out that 20 percent of Florida’s workforce is involved in manufacturing or logistics, the state should have a commissioner of manufacturing and logistics.
“It’s time to look toward moving to the future. We could put Florida on the forefront in developing polices,” Ray said.
Attorney Rob Mason, who said he was appearing before the commission as an advocate for children, suggested amending the constitution in terms of how a juvenile can be charged and tried in court.
He said either a grand jury indictment or a ruling from a judge should be required before a juvenile can be prosecuted as an adult.
Expanding gun rights was brought up by several speakers.
Some suggested eliminated the waiting period to take possession of a gun after it is purchased if the buyer passes the federal firearms purchase requirements. Others suggested expanding open-carry laws and making it legal to carry concealed firearms on college campuses.
Many of the speakers said they support amending election laws to allow all voters, regardless of party affiliation or even no party affiliation, to vote in primary elections as well as general elections.
Other election law suggestions included automatic voter registration at age 18 and allowing people to cast their ballot using a mobile device.
Restoring the rights of nonviolent felons, parental rights in terms of where they may send their children to school and a policy to require a 24-hour “period of reflection” before a woman may choose to have an abortion also were topics presented to the commission.
Municipal officials also presented suggestions that would limit the state’s influence on how they conduct local business.
“There are seven bills before the Legislature that could damage our ability to govern locally,” said Jacksonville Beach Mayor Charlie Latham. “Protect home rule and allow us to serve our citizens.”
St. Augustine Mayor Nancy Shaver agreed.
“Cities need to have the ability to do what they need to do,” she said.
The commission also received some insight from one a member of the 1997 revision commission.
Stetson University attorney and law professor Clay Henderson said the “arc of history is about the expansion of rights.”
He also gave the commission a glimpse of what’s ahead of them as they consider amending the constitution.
“You have no idea what you’ve gotten into or how much time it will take over the next year,” he said.
The constitution revision process can be followed at revisefl.com. The website includes updates on the commission and archived video of public hearings and proceedings. In addition, proposed constitutional amendments and comments may be submitted to the commission at flcrc.gov.