TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A group of former state and federal lawmakers and two former lieutenant governors said Tuesday it will fight the Florida Constitution Revision Commission’s entire slate of amendments going before voters in November.
Pointing to ideological opposition to the process rather than the specifics of the proposed constitutional amendments, the 16-member group called Save My Constitution described the eight ballot measures as “confusing” and “misleading.”
“We’re not looking at any single issue,” said Jim Kallinger, a former state House member from Central Florida who is among the leaders of Save My Constitution. “We’re saying vote ‘no’ on everything, because we feel they were conceived in a deceptive way. We’re going to address the process.”
The new group, which held a press conference at the Capitol, intends to campaign against the different measures. Also, group members will push to end the once every-20-year process that they say allows the governor and legislative leaders to name “lobbyists” and “political insiders” to the Constitution Revision Commission. The 37-member commission has unique power to place amendments on the ballot.
“It’s an unelected body that, frankly, doesn’t represent anybody,” former Lt. Gov. Jeff Kottkamp said of the commission. “It’s not accountable to anybody, and it conducted its affairs in what we believe was well beyond the scope of their authority.”
Seven of the eight proposals have drawn legal challenges, and circuit judges have ordered the removal of two of the amendments from the ballot. The state has appealed both of those orders.
The Florida Supreme Court on Aug. 29 will take up what is known as Amendment 13, which seeks to ban greyhound racing at Florida dog tracks. Leon County Circuit Judge Karen Gievers blocked the measure, agreeing with breeders, owners and trainers that the proposal would mislead voters.
On Monday, Leon County Circuit Judge John Cooper ordered an education measure known as Amendment 8 off the ballot. Cooper said the amendment, which deals with three education issues, would fail to inform voters of its impact on the creation of charter schools. The state quickly gave notice that it would appeal Cooper’s decision.
Also, a legal challenge has been filed directly to the Supreme Court seeking to block six of the Constitution Revision Commission’s ballot initiatives, including the education measure. Plaintiffs in that lawsuit, including former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead, argue that combining disparate issues in single ballot proposals violates First Amendment rights of voters.
The Constitution Revision Commission’s practice of bundling multiple topics into single amendments has drawn controversy for months.
Kallinger and other members of the Save My Constitution group said that if the commission is allow to continue in the future, it should be limited to placing single topics in ballot proposals. That would be similar to requirements for amendments put on the ballot through petition drives.
Kallinger said his impetus for forming the group was Amendment 9, which asks voters to approve a ban on offshore oil drilling and a ban on vaping and the use of electronic cigarettes in workplaces.
The amendment also has drawn opposition from a coalition known as “Explore Offshore,” which is backed by the American Petroleum Institute and the Florida Petroleum Council. Kottkamp also is part of that coalition.
The Save My Constitution group intends to hit the campaign trail through personal appearances as well as print and TV ads.
“Because the CRC has been deceptive and their proposals are indeed defective, we must tell the people of Florida that in order to be safe, it is best that we vote no on all of those amendments,” said Ken Littlefield, a former state lawmaker who represented Hillsborough and Pasco counties.
Others who have joined Save My Constitution include former Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll, former Congresswoman Sandy Adams and former Congressman Connie Mack.
Each amendment requires 60 percent approval from voters.
Other amendments placed on the ballot by the commission are:
--- Amendment 6, which seeks to expand the rights of crime victims and raise the mandatory retirement age of judges.
--- Amendment 7, which deals with governance of the state-college system and death benefits for survivors of first responders and military members.
--- Amendment 10, which seeks to change the start dates of legislative sessions and require charter county governments to have elected constitutional officers.
--- Amendment 11, which seeks to remove constitutional language that prohibits “aliens ineligible for citizenship” from owning property and revise language to make clear that the repeal of criminal statutes does not affect the prosecution of crimes committed before the repeal.
--- Amendment 12, which calls for setting new ethics standards for public officials and imposing a six-year lobbying ban on state elected officials, state agency heads and local elected officials.