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FloridaStrong, advocacy groups renews questions about Constitution Revision process and rules

Miami Herald // Mary Ellen Klas

A group of voter advocacy and left-leaning activists groups have renewed calls to the chair of the Florida Constitution Revision Commission to conduct a transparent rules process and address concerns about favorable treatment some speakers at public hearings appear to be getting.

In a letter to CRC Chair Carlos Beruff on Monday, the groups said their top concern is “that the Commission is operating without rules and has not provided the public with any information about how it intends to go about adopting rules.” It noted that the commission has failed to post on its website a March 24 letter to commissioner in which Beruff laid out what his spokesperson calls an “informal” process for establishing a rules committee to present proposed rules.

The groups include the American Civil Liberties Union, AFSCME Florida, Florida Alliance of Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Florida Education Association, Common Cause Florida, Florida Policy Institute, Florida Strong, For Our Future, League of Women Voters Florida and Progress Florida.

In a separate letter, League of Women Voters of Florida President Pamela Goodman also wrote to express concerns about a lack of transparency in the process as the CRC has conducted three “listening tours” around the state. The 37-member commission has held public hearings in Orlando, Miami and Boca Raton and it meets again on Wednesday in Tallahassee.

“Our primary concerns relate to a lack of transparency, potential roadblocks to meaningful public engagement, potential for leverage and influence over commission members, and a less than robust respect for the Sunshine Rules,” Goodman wrote.

She raised a series of questions the LWV hopes will be addressed by the commission, including an exception to the proposed rules for campaign contributions which she said will allow legislators and other elected officials to “be tempted to vote on issues based on whether their votes will yield campaign contributions.”  Download April 10 LWV letter to Beruff

The advocacy group also asked Beruff why some speakers were allowed to leapfrog before others at the hearings, particularly in Boca Raton.

“Although you have announced that speakers will be called in the order they sign in, it is obvious to those of us who were present and those watching the live stream that sign in time was not always determinative of speaker order,” they wrote. “The earlier arriving speakers who tried to call this inequity to your attention were rudely rebuffed.”  Download Advocates LTR to Beruff 4-10-17

In response to the letters, CRC spokesperson Meredith Beatrice, who previously worked as PIO for Gov. Rick Scott’s Department of State, did not address the questions. She said in an email only: “This is an open and transparent process. Over 900 Floridians have attended public hearings and nearly 300 individual Floridians have spoken before the CRC. Speakers have been heard on a first-come, first-serve basis, and we will continue to do so. All Floridians wishing to speak before the CRC have been given an opportunity to be heard.”

The CRC met for an organizational session on March 20 and then indefinitely postponed the adoption of draft rules after several member privately complained.

The advocacy groups also want Beruff to answer the following:

• Has the Rules Committee been formed?

• Who are the members?

• Have any meetings been held or scheduled?

• Why has this letter and the process it sets out not been announced to the public?

• If meetings have been scheduled, when and where will they be held?

• What is the schedule for adopting the rules?

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