Corcoran names lawmakers to constitutional panel

Makeup of Florida's Constitution Revision Commission completed


TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – The makeup of Florida's Constitution Revision Commission was completed Monday, when House Speaker Richard Corcoran named the final nine members of the panel, including five state lawmakers.

Corcoran's appointments included three House members and two state senators.

The senators were Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, a former Senate president who developed a personal alliance with Corcoran as they chaired their chambers' budget committees the past two sessions, and Sen. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, a lawyer and former House member.

Corcoran's House appointments included Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, a lawyer and chairman of the House Commerce Committee; Rep. Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, the House speaker pro tempore; and Rep. Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor, a former prosecutor who is in line to become a future House speaker.

Corcoran, R-Land O'Lakes, said he did "place a premium" on appointees who were in an elected office or who had previously held one.

"The rationale behind this being that those who have placed their name before the people have an excellent understanding who they work for," the speaker said in a statement.

Among his non-elected appointees was Erika Donalds, wife of Rep. Byron Donalds, R-Naples. Erika Donalds is an accountant and chief financial officer in an investment firm and a member of the Collier County School Board.

Other Corcoran appointments included John Stemberger, an Orlando lawyer and longtime conservative activist; Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco; and Rich Newsome, an Orlando lawyer, businessman and former federal prosecutor.

Corcoran's appointments complete the 37-member Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years to propose changes to the state Constitution. The commission will be headed by Carlos Beruff, a Manatee County developer, who was one of 15 appointments to the panel made by Gov. Rick Scott.

Three appointees by Florida Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga and nine appointees by Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, have been previously announced. Attorney General Pam Bondi is the final member of the panel.

Corcoran also said he looked for appointees who "who understood and respected the role of our Constitution and the separation of powers."

"I believe all these appointees share that respect and understanding," Corcoran said. "With that as a foundation, these appointees are diverse, principled and won't march in lockstep with anyone. And my only charge to each has been to do what they believe to be right."

With the overwhelming majority of the commission picked by a Republican governor and Republican legislative leaders, the panel is expected to have a much more conservative bent than the two prior constitutional panels that met in 1977-78 and 1997-98, when Democrats had more power in Tallahassee.

Corcoran and Negron have said they would like to see the commission address the issue of congressional and legislative redistricting. That would involve revising 2010 constitutional amendments that led to court-drawn maps for the Legislature and Congress prior to last year's elections. Lawmakers argue the amendments have unfairly hampered the Legislature's role in redistricting.

Negron and Corcoran also have said they would like the commission to consider proposals that would overturn the state Supreme Court's 2006 decision, known as Bush v. Holmes, that held the state's use of taxpayer-financed vouchers to send students to private schools violated a provision in the state Constitution that requires a "uniform" system of public schools.

Any proposals approved by the Constitution Revision Commission will move forward as ballot issues in the November 2018 general election. The amendments need 60 percent of the vote to become part of the state Constitution.

In 1998, eight of the nine ballot proposals advanced by the commission were approved by voters, although they only required a majority vote at that time.