Proposal 13 would amend the Florida Constitution to protect the ability of voters to elect their 5 State-Constitution officers and to hold those office-holders (Tax Collector, Property Appraiser, Clerk of the Court and Sheriff) directly accountable. These 5 offices are created in the Florida constitution in Article VIII Section 1(d). Several counties, through a process started by the respective boards of county commissions, have and continue to make efforts to abolish these offices and transfer the duties to an office within the county. Lee County Tax Collector Larry Hart explained why Proposal 13 is so critical, “In counties where the office of tax collector has been abolished, the individual or department responsible for statutory Tax Collector duties reports to a mayor or a board of county commissioners. When this happens, direct accountability between the office and the citizens is lost within the bureaucratic layers of county government. This proposal ensures that will never happen.”
The Florida Constitution Revision Commission has approved 25 proposals to go to the CRC Style and Drafting Committee. Among these is P. 13. Pursuant to the CRC rules which were adopted in June of 2017, “The Style and Drafting Committee shall have the responsibility for clarifying, codifying, and arranging the proposals adopted by the Commission into an orderly revision of or amendment(s) to an existing Section or Article of the present Constitution. It shall also prepare the Commission’s final report.” Rule 2.3, CRC Rules.
The Style and Drafting Committee met for the first time since the 25 proposals were approved by the full CRC. Unlike the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission (“TBRC”), the CRC only requires a simple majority for proposals to go to Style and Drafting. With the TBRC, the requirement was a supermajority.
According to Chairman Brecht Heuchan, the big goals of the Style and Drafting Committee include: “Grouping, fixing, ballot drafting and organizing.” Commissioner Patricia Levesque, who was on the Style and Drafting Committee of the TBRC said: “words matter.” She reminded the Style and Drafting Committee of some guiding principals in the style and drafting process:
- Explanatory statements should be short and concise. The TBRC rules required a 75 word maximum. Some Commissioners on the CRC feel that 75 words is even too long.
- The ballot summary language must identify and accurately state the chief purpose of the proposal in clear and unambiguous language.
- The summary language must accurately describe the effects and consequences of the proposals and the summary language cannot “hide the ball.”
- Voters must be given sufficient notice of what is being decided.
- Not every detail must be explained.
- Availability of public information concerning the proposal is not a substitute for the clear and concise language of the ballot summary.
- Courts cannot rewrite the ballot summary language to correct deficiencies.
The Committee will meet in Tallahassee again in two weeks. FTCA will continue to monitor the process of the Committee as it takes on its historic task.