Former State Senator Chris Smith, a member of the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC), talked about which constitutional amendments he thinks will be placed on the 2018 ballot at a forum Nov. 16 co-sponsored by the League of Women Voters, the Pro-Choice Coalition and the ACLU.
About 50 people gathered at ArtServe in Fort Lauderdale to hear about the work of the 37-person commission, which was appointed to conduct the every-20-year review.
“I was scared when I got on the commission because of who appointed us,” Smith said. “It’s definitely a right-leaning commission.”
But he said he has been “pleasantly surprised” by the quality of the conversations on the commission and how most members are “open minded.”
Nevertheless he said he expects the two big issues the Republican-dominated state government is pushing to end up on the ballot:
- A measure to remove constitutional barriers to expanded school vouchers.
- A provision to require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes.
The other three issues he said have the best chances of being approved in April by the commission and being on the ballot are:
- Language that limits the right to privacy to apply only to your privacy of information. Right to privacy has been the basis of court rulings protecting a woman’s reproductive rights to choose, and Florida’s constitution states the right to privacy clearly and unequivocally. Weakening that provision might enable laws restricting access to abortion to withstand court challenge. Smith expressed concern that the changes might sound good to voters – who is against having their information kept private? — when the provision really weakens people’s rights.
- A measure called Marsy’s Law, which provides victims’ right, including some elements Smith finds troubling. These victims’ right measures were passed in California and are being funded by a wealthy businessman whose sister was murdered. It is the only issue under consideration that has paid lobbyists, Smith said.
- An amendment to return voting rights to people with felonies in their past, a key issue to the League of Women Voters. The League has been involved throughout 2017 in gathering petitions to place such an amendment on the ballot. The campaign is called “Say Yes to Second Chances.”
Smith said this measure was his primary reason for wanting to serve on the commission.
Smith’s proposal uses the same language as the petition campaign, so that the two avenues for getting the measure on the ballot can proceed on parallel tracks. That way, there will be no conflict if one or both efforts succeeded – the same language would be on the ballot either way.
He gave the chances of the CRC placing the restoration of rights amendment on the ballot at about 50-50.