Not a word has been uttered. Not a campaign ad has been created. Not a single news story has been written. Yet, this will be one of the most important decisions the next Florida governor will make – and it only happens every 20 years.
And Democrats, in particular, should be very worried.
Either Republican Rick Scott or Democrat Charlie Crist will appoint 15 members to a new Constitutional Revision Commission. The last time the Commission met was in 1997. When its work was done nine constitutional amendments went to voters including one that reduced Florida’s elected Cabinet from 6 members to 3 – increasing the power of the governor.
Thirty days before the start of the 2017 Legislature, the members of the commission will be picked. The Commission will hold hearings, examine ways to change the Florida Constitution, and then 6 months before the 2018 general election, place it proposed amendments on the ballot.
In addition to the 15 members chosen by the governor, the House Speaker and Senate President will each pick 9 members. Three members will be chosen by Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court. The Attorney General is an automatic member.
The governor picks one of the 37 members to serve as chairman of the commission.
When the 1997 commission was formed, Democrat Lawton Chiles was governor. Republican Toni Jennings was Senate President. Republican Dan Webster, now a member of Congress, was House Speaker. The Attorney General was Democrat Bob Butterworth.
With Chiles appointing 15 members, plus Democrat Butterworth, and the GOP legislative leaders appointing 18 members, the commission was politically balanced. The three appointees from the Chief Justice allowed a patina of impartiality.
In 2017, Democrats could have a huge problem.