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Attorney And Former CRC Member Martha Barnett Discusses Combining Of Proposed Amendments

Courtesy Holland & Knight Law

A lawsuit in Florida’s Supreme Court filed by a former justice seeks to get most of the Constitution Revision Commission’s proposed amendments off the ballot before November. Harry Lee Anstead retired as chief justice in 2009. Anstead takes issue with six amendments and their combining proposed changes, claiming it will leave voters unable to cast votes on individual ideas.

Martha Barnett is an attorney who served on the last CRC in 1998. She served on its Style and Drafting Committee, which determines how amendments are combined and presented on the ballot. Barnett recently spoke with WFSU’s Ryan Dailey about her experience on the Commission, and gave her take on the most recent amendments.

Questions with timestamps:

Was the concept of bundling ever brought up amongst your peers on the Style and Drafting Committee, or is this something they are trying out for the first time? 0:00- 3:08

"The idea of putting more than one proposed amendment to the constitution in a proposal was not only discussed, but we did that.”

That sort of combining things that don’t connect or line up with each other, at least on the surface to the voter who’s not following it … where does that leave some of these amendments that are going to be on the ballot? What’s your take on the chances of them passing? 3:09-4:31

"I think the confusion that has resulted, and the discussion, debate and litigation that have come out of this, has not been helpful. A lot of people when they don't understand what they're being asked to vote on will just not vote, or vote no."

Do CRC members shape their own process each time, or is there more of a protocol laid out for them that they follow? 4:32-10:05

"I had a chance to see both of them (1978 and 1998 CRC's) up close and personal … and they were very different. In terms of the people, the makeup, and what the issues were … You have to place these CRC’s in the moment that they end up coming into being. That moment is going to affect substance and process."

Ryan Dailey is a reporter/producer for WFSU/Florida Public Radio. After graduating from Florida State University, Ryan went into print journalism working for the Tallahassee Democrat for five years. At the Democrat, he worked as a copy editor, general assignment and K-12 education reporter.