In 1968, Florida’s voters adopted a nearly complete revision of the Florida Constitution; the resulting document was Florida’s sixth constitution. That constitution provided four ways by which it could be amended; one was a method unique to Florida then and now. That provision called for a Constitution Revision Commission to meet ten years after the 1968 constitution was adopted and every twenty years thereafter to reconsider the entire constitution; determine what, if any, revisions the constitution needed; and propose revisions directly to the voting public. Two such revision commissions have met since 1968. A third will meet in 2017 and 2018. The twenty-year gaps combined with Florida’s steep population growth ensure that the voters will be a substantially different group for each revision commission. The constitution and the voters will never be stepping into the same river twice.
This article provides a brief history of how the 1968 Florida Constitution came to be and considers some highlights of the revisions and attempted revisions to Florida’s Constitution that have spanned the nearly fifty years since 1968. Many issues have stayed alive the entire time. Some have not changed; some have changed flavor as time has progressed and the needs of Florida’s people and land have changed. The article begins in Part I with a brief overview of Florida’s previous constitutions. Part II discusses the societal, political, and legal forces that caused the 1968 Constitution to be formed; Part III reviews some important procedural matters that faced the two Constitution Revision Commissions (CRCs) that have met since 1968; and Part IV reviews some major issues that have persevered in one form or another for the entire span of nearly fifty years. It does not, however, emphasize a comparison of the two CRCs, as that task has already been done ably by others. It also does not attempt to review the work of the two Taxation and Budget Reform Commissions that met in 1992 and 2008. The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission is now the fifth method by which the Florida Constitution may be amended. Instead, this article takes a vertical perspective of the constitution, highlighting a few major issues that have arisen since the constitution was adopted in 1968. For the reader’s convenience, I address the highlighted issues in the order in which the constitution is organized. This article is intended to act as a historical guide to readers interested in current constitutional issues in Florida. As the much-quoted philosopher George Santayana has said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Perhaps Florida, with its growing and transient population, can escape this fate.
Mary E. Adkins, The Same River Twice: A Brief History of How the 1968 Florida Constitution Came to Be and What it Has Become, 18 Fla. Coastal L. Rev. 5 (2016), available at