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State Constitution Revision Commission to hold hearing in Cape Coral

By Staff | Mar 2, 2018

Lee County residents will have the opportunity to shape the November ballot for changes in the state’s constitution.

The Constitution Revision Commission will hold a public hearing on March 5 from 1 to 7 p.m. at The Westin in Cape Coral. It will be the fifth hearing out of the six to be held on the CRC’s 2018 “Road to the Ballot” public hearing tour.

The meeting is open to – and intended for – the public, and no tickets or RSVPs are required.

The CRC convenes every 20 years to examine and put forward constitutional amendments for voter consideration, spokesperson Meredith Beatrice said.

“There are five ways the constitution can be revised and this is one of them. This is the third CRC to convene in the state’s history and is the second year we have held this tour. We went to nine cities in 2007,” she said.

There are 37 active proposals being considered by the commission from among the 103 that made it out of the committee process in the fall, Beatrice said.

Among them is an issue that has been hotly debated here in Lee County – the so-called primary loophole. Currently, primaries are open in Florida if the candidate slate is limited to one party. A write-in candidate on the ballot, however, closes the primary. Critics say this violates the spirit of the open-primary provision as write-in candidates often do not campaign.

“It is very much alive and is one of the 37 to be considered by the full commission,” said Commissioner Erika Donalds, who will chair the hearing in Cape Coral, of Proposal 11.

The goal is to get feedback on the proposals, which can be accessed at flcrc.gov/PublishedContent/ADMINISTRATIVEPUBLICATIONS/CRCActiveProposalsHearings2018.pdf.

“The feedback from the public will help inform commissioners before they make finals decisions on what they put on the ballot,” she said.

Also among the proposals is a ban on offshore drilling, a residents’ bill of rights proposal, a prohibition on wagering on greyhound and dog races, and death benefits for survivors of first responders and military members.

Any amendments proposed by the CRC this spring will be placed on the 2018 General Election ballot in November. The threshold for an amendment to pass is 60 percent.

Beatrice said she could not speculate on how many proposals will go to referendum, but the CRC in 1977-78 put eight proposals on the ballot, none of which passed. Nine proposals got on the ballot in 1997-98, eight of which passed. Back then, only a simple majority was needed to pass amendments.

To speak at a CRC public hearing, Floridians must fill out an appearance form and hand it in to CRC staff. The appearance form is available at flcrc.gov and printed copies are available at the hearings.

Appearance forms will not be accepted in advance of the hearing.

Public speakers will be called in the order in which forms are received by CRC staff at the public hearing. The Citizen Services Desk will be open to accept forms from noon to 7 p.m.

The Constitution Revision Commission meets for approximately one year, traveling the state of Florida, identifying issues, performing research and possibly recommending changes to the Constitution.

Those attending will also be asked to observe CRC guidelines.

The guidelines include:

– One Person, One Appearance Form: To facilitate reasonable waiting times, individuals wishing to speak before the CRC may not submit more than one appearance form at the Citizen Services Desk. This is to discourage one participant from submitting multiple appearance forms on behalf of multiple participants ahead of other individuals who have been patiently waiting their turn in line. Speakers may speak on their own behalf or on behalf of their organization.

– Two-Minute Remarks: Hundreds of Floridians attend CRC public hearings. To help facilitate a fair process and reasonable waiting times, individuals who submitted an appearance form to the Citizen Services Desk shall be afforded two minutes to discuss one or more proposals before the CRC. Due to high attendance, individuals may not submit multiple appearance forms on multiple topics.

– Signs and Props: Handheld signage which does not obstruct the view of other attendees or invade others’ personal space is permitted. Signage must not block walkways. No balloons or noisemakers are permitted.

– Decorum: Public hearings are an opportunity for all voices to be heard. Please be respectful of others’ opinions and speaking time allotted before the CRC. At all times, the chair may regulate decorum.

The public may also submit input online at flcrc.gov.

The Westin Cape Coral Resort at Marina Village is at 5951 Silver King Blvd.