1997-1998 Florida Constitution Revision Commission.
Photo courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.
1977-1978 Constitution Revision Commission
There have been only two previous Constitution Revision Commissions in Florida’s history. The 1977-1978 CRC was chaired by Sandy D’Alemberte and had eight proposals on the ballot for voter consideration. None of the proposals passed, but some were implemented later.
1997-1998 Constitution Revision Commission
The 1997-1998 Constitution Revision Commission, chaired by Dexter Douglass, held 11 public hearings across the state and received nearly 200 proposals from the public. Ultimately, nine revisions were selected by the CRC to be placed on the 1998 ballot. Florida voters passed eight of those amendments in 1998, when only a simple majority, more than 50 percent, was required for passage. As of 2006, at least 60 percent of the vote is required to pass.
Below is a list of amendments that were proposed by the 1997-1998 CRC:
Conservation of Natural Resources and Creation of Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission - Passed by 72 percent
Requires adequate provision for conservation of natural resources; creates Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, granting it the regulatory and executive powers of the Game and Fresh Water Fish Commission and the Marine Fisheries Commission; removes the legislature’s exclusive authority to regulate marine life and grants certain powers to new commission; authorizes bonds to continue financing acquisition and improvement of lands for conservation, outdoor recreation, and related purposes; restricts disposition of state lands designated for conservation purposes.
Public Education of Children - Passed by 71 percent
Declares the education of children to be a fundamental value of the people of Florida, established adequate provision for education as a paramount duty of the state; expands constitutional mandate requiring the state to make adequate provision for a uniform system of free public schools by also requiring the state to make adequate provision for an efficient, safe, secure and high-quality system.
Restructuring the State Cabinet – Passed by 56 percent
Merges cabinet offices of treasurer and comptroller into one chief financial officer; reduces cabinet membership to chief financial officer, attorney general and agriculture commissioner; secretary of state and education commissioner eliminated from elected cabinet; secretary of state duties defined by law; changes composition of state board of education from governor and cabinet to board appointed by governor; board appoints education commissioner; defines state board of administration, trustees of internal improvement trust fund and land acquisition trust fund.
Basic Rights – Passed by 66 percent
Defines “natural persons,” who are equal before the law and who have inalienable rights, as “female and male alike;” provides that no person shall be deprived of any right because of national origin; changes “physical handicap” to “physical disability” as a reason that people are protected from being deprived of any right.
Local and Municipal Property Tax Exemptions and Citizen Access to Local Officials – Failed at 49.8 percent
Broadens tax exemption for governmental uses of municipal property; authorizes legislature to exempt certain municipal and special district property used for airport, seaport, or public purposes; permits local option tax exemption for property used for conservation purposes; permits local option tangible personal property tax exemption for attachments to mobile homes and certain residential rental furnishings; removes limitations on citizens’ ability to communicate with local officials about matters which are the subject of public hearings.
Ballot Access, Public Campaign Financing and Election Process Revisions – Passed by 64 percent
Provides ballot access requirements for independent and minor party candidates cannot be greater than requirements for majority party candidates; allows all voters, regardless of party, to vote in any party’s primary election if the winner will have no general election opposition; provides public financing of campaigns for statewide candidates who agree to campaign spending limits; permits candidates for governor to run in primary elections without lieutenant governor; makes school board elections nonpartisan; corrects voting age.
Firearms Purchases: Local Option for Criminal History Records Check and Waiting Period – Passed by 72 percent
Authorizes each county the option of requiring a criminal history records check and waiting period of 3 to 5 days in connection with the “sale” of any firearm; defines “sale” as the transfer of money or other valuable consideration for a firearm where any part of the transaction occurs on property open to public access; does not apply to holders of a concealed weapons permit when purchasing a firearm.
Judicial Selection and Funding of State Courts - Passed by 57 percent
Provides for future local elections to either retain current election of circuit and county judges or to choose merit selection by appointment and retention by vote to retain or not; provides for election procedure for subsequent changes to selection of judges; increases county judges' terms to six years; corrects judicial qualifications commission term of office; allocates state court system funding among state, counties, and users of the courts.
Miscellaneous Matters and Technical Revisions - Passed by 55 percent
Removes gender-specific references; allows courts martial to impose prison sentences; moves ethics code provision; specifies time for veto message consideration; clarifies legislature gives officials general appropriations bills 72 hours before final passage; allows direct appeal of courts martial to specified state court and advisory opinions from federal military courts; requires earlier constitution revision commission appointments; changes tax and budget reform commission voting procedures and meetings from every 10 to every 20 years.