Bundling is the word the Constitution Revision Commission, which meets every 20 years, used to describe its practice of squeezing multiple constitutional amendment proposals onto a single ballot question.

Former state Senate President Don Gaetz, who sat on the CRC , which only meets every 20 years, said there is historic precedence for bundling as a way to prevent the ballot from getting to long.

“The CRC received thousands of proposals and got serious about 180 of them,” Gaetz said. “We worked it down on the floor of the commission to 25, and not all of those made the cut. If they had we would have had an extraordinarily long ballot.”

Amendment 7 bundles several items together, most of which would tweak the Florida College System.

If the proposal receives the required 60 percent voter approval, oversight of the 28 schools comprising the Florida College System would permanently remain with the state’s Department of Education, which also oversees public primary and secondary education.

It would also require supermajority votes by a college’s board of trustees and the board of governors to increase a college fee.

Gaetz conceded that those charged with bundling amendment packages weren’t always averse to providing a sweetener to lure voters into accepting less palatable proposals.

The Amendment 7 sweetener, Gaetz said, was a proposal to provide death benefits to surviving spouses of first responders and military members whose loved ones are killed in the line of duty.

Who, for instance, would vote against death benefits for the spouses of heroes, even if it meant accepting the Florida College System question?

Gaetz said he favors most of the offerings in Amendment 7, but opposes codifying the State Board of Education as the overseer of the college system. He said in his opinion the Board doesn’t give the state colleges the attention it should.

“The needs of the state colleges are different than the needs of elementary schools,” he said. “The state Board of Education needs two days to run through its meeting agenda and spends about 20 minutes on the state’s colleges.”

Devin Stephenson, the president of Northwest Florida State College, said he could support Amendment 7 “with the assurance each state college retain local governance through a governor-appointed local board with the same role, responsibilities, and authorities they currently possess.”

Amendment 7 is one of three overturned at the Circuit Court level following a challenge by former Supreme Court Justice Harry Lee Anstead and Robert Barnas. The men contended that bundling amendment questions – combining two or more issues in a single proposal -- violated voters’ First Amendment rights.

 Amendments 7, 9 and 11 are being reviewed by the Florida Supreme Court, which has indicated it will rule “expeditiously.”

 But because the first of this year’s ballots had to have been mailed to members of the military by Tuesday, Aug. 2, Amendment 7 and the other amendments reviewed by the Supreme Court will appear on Florida ballots whether they are ultimately thrown out by the Supreme Court or not, said Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux.

 

 

 

 

Though it will appear on ballots in November, Amendment 7 could still be thrown out and therefore ineligible for voter consideration on Nov. 6.  Leon County Circuit Court Judge Karen Gievers has rejected a CRC argument that the proposals on the amendment proposal are closely enough related to be considered together. The Florida Supreme Court will eventually decide whether to uphold Gievers ruling or allow the amendments to be voted upon.

Because ballots had to have been mailed to members of the media by late August, Amendment 7 and other bundled amendments will appear on Florida ballots whether they are ultimately thrown out by the Supreme Court or not, said Okaloosa County Supervisor of Elections Paul Lux.  

Amendment 9 and Amendment 11 were also ruled by Gievers to have been improperly bundled.