State Politics

Want a chance to shape Florida’s future? Applications accepted

Gov. Rick Scott flanked by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, left, and Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes makes his way to the podium to deliver his 2016 State of the State address on the first day of session.
Gov. Rick Scott flanked by Sen. Joe Negron, R-Stuart, left, and Rep. Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes makes his way to the podium to deliver his 2016 State of the State address on the first day of session. AP

Friday is the last day the Florida House will accept applications to be a member of what might be one of the most influential groups assembled in Florida in two decades — the Florida Constitutional Revision Commission.

The unique panel has the power to put proposals directly on the 2018 mid-term ballot to reform and update the state’s constitution, and shape Florida’s future. The list of applicants is long, and many have been carefully recruited by Gov. Rick Scott, the chief justice of the Supreme Court and Florida’s top two legislative leaders. Those four men will make the appointments.

The state has done this twice before: in 1978 — after the 1968 rewrite of the state Constitution — and 1998. If past experience is any indicator, the commission will be mostly political insiders.

Scott will appoint 15 members, including its chair. House Speaker Richard Corcoran, R-Land O’Lakes, and Senate President Joe Negron, R-Stuart, each have nine appointees. Chief Justice Jorge Labarga will appoint three members. Attorney General Pam Bondi, a Republican, is automatically a member.

The application deadline for the Supreme Court closed in December. Corcoran is accepting applications through today. The Senate, which initially announced it wanted applications by Dec. 9, said Friday it has continued to accept applications. Applications to the governor remain open and are available here.

As of Thursday, there were 258 applicants for the 37-member commission, and the list of applicants is chock full of current and former elected officials, and dozens of high-profile attorneys. Corcoran had received 44 by Thursday, compared to 99 received by the governor, 79 by the Senate and 36 by the court.

Ten current lawmakers want to be on the panel, including House Democratic Leader Janet Cruz of Tampa. Dozens of former legislators have applied, including former Senate President Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, and his son, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, who was just elected to Congress.

Former Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum, the governor’s primary opponent in 2010, has asked Scott to appoint him to the commission.

There are several local officials willing to make the commitment. Miami-Dade County Commissioner Sally Heyman, a former Democratic state representative, has applied, and so has Broward County Schools Superintendent Robert Runcie. Former Supreme Court Justice Charles Wells has indicated his interest in being on the panel.

As mandated in the Florida Constitution, the commission will meet for approximately one year to identify issues, perform research, debate and recommend changes to the Constitution. The job is time consuming, requiring ample time to travel the state and listen to the public. Members of the commission serve without pay, although in the past expenses have been covered.

Corcoran and Negron have made it clear they have priorities in mind for the commission.

Negron said he will select his appointees based on three factors: do they have sound judgment, come from a “diverse background of life experiences” and share his core values — “the sovereignty of the individual, pro-consumer, and support parental choice in education.”

Corcoran told the Herald/Times he prefers that his appointees have elective experience so they know how to pitch proposals that are likely to win popular approval and get past the 60 percent voter approval needed for a constitutional amendment to become law.

He said he will reject anyone who is a traditional “special interest” lobbyist, but he is open to considering people who are single-issue advocates, especially on his top priorities of education reform and term limits for judges.  

“Absolutely there is a litmus test,” he said. “I will not choose one selection that is not a conservative.”

Among the applicants is Frank Atkisson, a conservative Republican who served in the Florida House from 2000-2008 and was a part of former Speaker Marco Rubio’s education policy team when Corcoran was Rubio’s chief of staff. Atkisson has since run a chain of charter schools and currently runs a company that specializes in American board certification for teachers of excellence.

Atkisson said he hasn’t discussed the job with Corcoran and was not recruited for the post, but he could bring with him the pro-choice sensibilities Corcoran said he wants to change the state’s education laws that favor county-run public schools.

“In my mind, there has been a dwindling away of what the Constitution should be for,” Atkisson said. He said he believes the teachers union drove the debate on class size, the gambling industry drove the debate on the authorization of slot machines and, in 2016, the utilities industry attempted to use the constitution to halt the expansion of solar power.

“I just don’t think the constitution should be industry driven,” he said.

Twenty years ago, the state was in the midst of its last era of divided government. Lawton Chiles, a Democrat, was governor, and the Legislature was newly controlled by Republicans.

In 1978, the governor’s office and the Legislature were controlled by Democrats, and the commission lacked diversity. Voters rejected all eight of its proposals. In 1998, with an evenly divided commission, voters approved eight of its nine proposals.

Former Gov. Bob Martinez, a Republican who preceded Chiles, said he believes the “most critical” point in the CRC process is who gets appointed.

“It is much different than it was 20 years ago in terms of the diversity of the state,” Martinez said, during a forum on the CRC at Florida State University. “It’s very important that these people represent the demographics of the state.”

Bob Butterworth, four-term attorney general and a member of the 1998 commission, said that the composition of the commission is critical.

The 1998 commission was half Republicans and half Democrats, he said, and the result was that the partisans and ideologues in the group had to compromise.

While many came in with ideas of their own, they were also forced to listen to each other and that resulted in compromises, he told the FSU forum.

“When making our decisions we dealt with it much like a jury,” he said. “We deliberated what’s best for the state of Florida.”

The 1998 commission also decided that for any proposal to make it to the ballot, it would need a super-majority vote of the 37-member commission — which he said increased the odds it would pass Florida’s divided electorate.

“Florida then was a 50/50 state as it is now,” Butterworth said. “If you put something on the ballot, why spend all of that time and have it not passing? ... If [the commission] is not diverse, it’s all going to fail.”

For Scott, whom he appoints as chairman and the diversity of the individuals he selects could be one of the most important legacies he leaves as governor. Chiles picked Dexter Douglass, whose personality, knowledge of law and strength of character was seen as pivotal to the success of the commission.

Gerald Kogan, who as chief judge of the Florida Supreme Court in 1998 appointed himself to the CRC, said that “it doesn’t make any difference” that everyone who appoints members to the commission this year is a Republican.

“If you pick the right people and if you look for diversity — that would include political affiliation — then I don’t think you can go wrong,” he said. “You need people of good will.”

Some applicants to 2018 Constitution Revision Commission

▪  Current legislators: Rep. Janet Cruz, D-Tampa, Rep. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, Rep. Lori Berman, D-Palm Beach, Rep. Jeannette Nunez, R-Miami, Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, Sen. Greg Steube, R-Sarasota, Sen. Dana Young, R-Tampa, Sen. Gary Farmer, D-Fort Lauderdale, Rep. Cord Byrd, R-Neptune Beach

▪  Former legislators: Rep. Mike Hill, R-Pensacola, Judge Bruce Kyle, R-Fort Myers, Osceola County Commissioner Frank Atkisson, Rep. John Tobia, R-Melbourne, Rep. John Wood, R-Lakeland, Rep. Joe Pickens, Sen. Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, Sen. Eleanor Sobel, D-Hollywood, Sen. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, Judge John Stargel, R-Lakeland, Rep. Mike Hogan, R-Jacksonville, Sen. Don Gaetz, R-Niceville, U.S. Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Shalimar, Sen. Rick Dantzler, D-Gainesville, Rep. Rich Crotty, R-Orlando, Rep. Anne Gannon, D-Delray Beach, Sen. Alex Villalobos, R-Miami, Sen. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa, Rep. Jeff Kottkamp, R-Cape Coral, Sen. Winston “Bud” Gardner, D-Merritt Island, Sen. Rich Crotty, R-Orlando.

CRC Applicants as of Jan. 19, 2017

Applied to Gov. Rick Scott - 15 appointments and chair

* Rick Danzler, D, Winter Haven, former state senator, attorney, state executive director U.S. Department of Agriculture Farm Service Agency

* Warren Dawson, Tampa, D, Attorney

* Robert Dillinger, Fort Myers, D, Public Defender

* Stuart Goldstein, D, Attorney

* Sally Heyman, D, Miami-Dade County Commissioner

* Abby Kinch, D, Tallahassee, FSU Program Admininistrator, Senior Researcher

* Jazil Mohammad, D, Tallahassee, Attorney

* Howard Rosenblatt, D, Gainesville, Attorney

* Elijah Smiley, D, Panama City, County & Circuit Judge

* Steven Specht, D, FSU Researcher, Air Force veteran, 2016 congressional candidate

* Brett Upthagrove, D, Lakeland

* Jessica VanValkennburgh, D, Stuart, Attorney

* Anthony Walsh, D, Daytona Beach, James Moore & Co., CPA, staff accountant

* Laurence Gills, Libertarian, Cape Coral, University of Maryland professor of legal studies

* Margaret Carlock, NPA, retired educator

* Robert Clayton, NPA, Jupiter, Attorney

* Jason Handin, Boynton Beach, NPA, Attorney

* James Marsh, NPA, chief assistant attorney general

* Mark Miller, NPA, Palm Beach Gardens, managing attorney, Pacific Legal Foundation

* Puig Diego, NPA, Sanford, Veritas Technologies, Info. Management Solutions

* Robert Runcie, NPA, Cooper City, Broward Schools Superintendent

* Robert Andrade, R, Pensacola, Attorney

* Tildon Belgard, R, Niceville, Verge Genomics senior scientist

* Michael Beltran, R, Tampa, Attorney

* Thomas Bishop, R, Jacksonville, Attorney (hired by Scott for records and other disputes)

* H. Glenn Boggs II, retired FSU professor of business law

* Paul Boroughs, R, Orlando, retired attorney

* Charles Bronson, R, Tallahassee, former Florida Commissioner of Agriculture 2001-2011

* Donald Brown, R, Defuniak Springs, former state represenative, insurance agent

* Kurt Browning, R, Pasco County Superintentent of Schools, former Secretary of State

* Frederick Brummer, R, Apopka, CPA

* Cord Byrd, R, Neptune Beach, attorney, newly elected to Florida House

* Mark Casteel, R, Tallahassee, attorney, vice president, Citizens Property Insurance

* Elizabeth Cayson, government relations, health care district

* Rich Crotty, R, Orlando, former state representative, The Crotty Group

* Lisa Cullen, R, Cocoa Beach, Brevard County Tax Collector

* Donald Curtis, III, R, Attorney

* Wyman Duggan, R, Jacksonville, Attorney

* Donald Eslinger, R, Sanford retired sheriff of Seminole County

* Gregory Feldman, ?, Department of Children & Families Criminal Justice Coordinator

* Hayley Folmar, R, Jacksonville, attorney

* Brett Foster, R, Orlando, legal assistant, associate, Patrick A. Carey PA

* Don Fox, R, Jacksonville, Firehouse of America, Restaurant

* William Furst, Jr., R, Sarasota, Town & Country Real Estate, Florida President

* Matt Gaetz, R, Fort Walton Beach, newly-elected to Congress

* Vivian Gallo, R, Jacksonville, Halifax Health, Senior VP, General Counsel

* Glenton Gilzean, R, Orlando, Central Florida Urban League, President

* Barbara Goiran, R, New Port Richey, State of Florida 6th Judicial Circuit

* Steven Gosney, R, Ormond Beach

* Susan Haynie, R, Mayor of Boca Raton

* Nicholas Harding, R, Jacksonville, Mary Thomas campaign field representative

* Michael Jones, R, Winter Springs, Attorney

* Belinda Keiser, R, Orlando, Keiser University Vice Chancellor

* Frank Kruppenbacher, R, Orlando, attorney

* Simone Marstiller, R, Tampa, attorney

* David Maymon, Fort Lauderdale, R, Red Tree Health

* Bernie McCabe, R, Clearwater, State Attorney 6th Circuit

* Bob McClure, James Madison Institute, President and CEO

* Bill McCollum, R, Seminole County, former state Attorney General 2007-2011, former member of Congress

* Robert Mellen III, R, Orlando, Consutant/Investor, Self-Employed

* Park Miller, R, Tallahassee, president and CEO Florida Retail Federation

* Wayne Miller, R, Key West, Monroe County Judge

* Gerald Monahan, Jr., R, South Dayton, former Chief of Police 1999-2015

* Edwin Moore, R, Tallahassee, president Independent Colleges and Universities of Florida

* Mark Moriarty, R, North Port, attorney

* Marjorie Nanian, R, Dade City

* Kenneth Nunn, R, Alliance Motion Pictures, retired 2008

* Tena Pate, R, Tallahassee

* Ralph "Pat" Patterson Jr., R, Deland, owner Pat Patterson Insurance Agency

* Belvin Perry, R, Orlando, Morgan & Morgan Law, Circuit Judge 1989-2014

* Jerry Pierce, R, Food Service Equipment, President and Chair

* Nicholas Primrose, R, Orlando, Attorney

* Michael Rainka, R, Jacksonville, Attorney

* Prebble Ramswell, R, Destin, Attorney Columbia Southern University

* Kelly Roberson, R, Panama City, Assistant Public Defender

* Grover Robinsonn IV, R, Pensacola, Escambia County Commissioner

* William Schifino, R, Tampa, Attorney

* Audra Simovitch, R, Boca Raton

* Daniel Smith, R, Gainesville, University of Florida professor, ElectionSmith Political Consulting

* Henry Stelzl, R, Vero Beach

* Larisa Svechin, R, Sunny Isles Beach, Greater Miami Jewish Federation

* Mary Thomas, R,Tallahassee, Judge, Attorney

* Andy Tuck, R, Avon Park, Elton Crews, Inc., Agric./Citrus Prod. Mgr.

* Julie Waldman, R, Gainesville, Deputy General Counsel

* Scott Widerman, R, Melbourne, Attorney

* Marc Wigder, R, Boca Raton, Attorney & Real Estate

* Frank Zilaitis, R, Indian Harbour Beach

* Caroline Zoes, R, Brooksville, Attorney

* Victoria Avalon, R, Mulberry, Assistant State Attorney

* David Baade, ?, Melbourne, Pres./CEO Fair Housing Continuum, Inc.

* Donald Barbee, ? Hernando County, Attorney, Adjunct Professor at Hernando Community College

* Alan Becker, ?, Fort Lauderdale, Attorney, Vice Chair Enterprise Florida

* Charles Henderson II,. Aviation Consulting, retired

* John Jackson, ?, Bonifay, ServePro, Flood/Fire Remediation

* Joseph Little, ? , University of Florida College of Law, Professor of Law

* Christopher Maier, ?, Orlando,Wireless Infrastructure, Owner/Operator

* Scott Mason III ?

* Joseph Matthews, ?, Coral Gables, Attorney

Applicants to Senate President Joe Negron - 9 appointments

George Albright, Marion County

Forrest Andrews, Miami-Dade

Frank Attkisson, Osceola County

Kirk Bailey, Sarasota County

Jason Berger, Martin County

Glenn Boggs, Leon County

Tommy Boroughs, Orange

Gloria Carr, Orange

Mike Chesser, Okaloosa

Patrick Christiansen, Orange

Debbie Crockett, Hillsborough

Richard Crotty, Orange

Lisa Cullen, Brevard

Donald Curtis, Taylor County

Rick, Dantzler , Polk County

Warren, Dawson, Hillsborough

Brian Desloge, Leon County

Bob, Dillinger, Pinellas County

Richard Duckworth, Charlotte County

Charles Edwards, Lee County

Manuel Farach, Martin County

Gary Farmer, Broward County

Magdalena Fresen, Miami-Dade County

Donald Gaetz, Okaloosa County

WC Gentry, Duval County

Charles Hackney, Manatee County

Jason Handin, Palm Beach County

Doug Harrison, Broward

Larry Hart, Lee County

Susan Haynie, Palm Beach

Sally Heyman, Miami-Dade County

Rand Hoch, Palm Beach County

Michael Hofstee, St. Lucie County

Mike Hogan, Duval County

Kasey Ingram, Martin County

John Jackson, Holmes County

Mohammad Jazil, Leon County

Dennis Jones, Marion County

Robert Kilbride, Leon County

Mark Lapointe, Broward County

Craig Leen, Miami-Dade County

Robert Maldonado, Alachua County

Shields McManus, Martin County

Mark Miller, Martin County

Edwin Moore, Leon County

Mark Moriarty, Sarasota

Sandra Mortham, Leon County

Blair Payne, Suwannee County

Joe Pickens, Putnam County

Sherry Plymale, Martin County

Gerald Richman, Palm Beach County

Carmen Lydia Rodriguez-Torres, Orange County

Randell Rowe, Volusia County

Kent Saftiet, Leon County

William, Schifino, Hillsborough County

Anne Scott, Martin County

Barbara Sharief, Broward County

Michelle Sisco, Hillsborough County

Chris Smith, Broward County

Joseph Smith, St. Lucie County

Eleanor Sobel, Broward County

Steven Specht, Escambia County

John Stargel, Polk County

Greg Steube, Sarasota County

Bob Stork, Indian River County

Geraldine Thompson, Orange County

Carolyn Timmann, Martin County

Daryl Trawick, Miami-Dade County

Gene Wadell, Indian River County

Charles Wells, Orange County

Tyler Winik, Brevard County

Dana Young, Hillsborough County

Applicants to Florida House Speaker Richard Corcoran -- 9 appointments

Forrest Andrews, D, Miami-Dade, Assistant City Attorney, City of Miami

Frank Attkisson, R, Osceola, Former House Member / Owner of an education consulting firm, Frank Attkisson Consulting

Harry Boggs, R, Leon, Retired FSU Business Law Professor

Paul Boroughs , R, Orange, Retired attorney / partner at Holland & Knight LLP

David Chesser , I, Okaloosa, Attorney / President of Chesser & Barr, P.A.

Eugene Cloud, R, Orange, Retired defense contractor director of image processing

Daniel Cook, R, Bradford, Unemployed / Former Dist. Sec. for Rep. Van Zant

Fred Costello, R, Volusia, Dentist / Former House Member

Janet Cruz, D, Hillsborough, Minority Leader, Florida House of Representatives

Jose Diaz, R, Miami-Dade, Attorney / House Member

Jason Handin, NPA, Palm Beach, Attorney

Douglas Harrison, R, Broward, City of Miami Assistant City Attorney

Susan Haynie, R, Palm Beach, Mayor of Boca Raton

Mike Hill, R, Escambia, Insurance Ageny / Owner / Former House Member

John Jackson, Green Party of Florida, Holmes, Unemployed / Volunteer Community Activist

Thomas Jackson, R, Hillsborough Communications and Media contractor at Pasco Clerk's Office, and Laker News reporter

Robert Kilbride, R, Leon, DOAH Administrative Law Judge

Bruce Kyle, R, Lee, 20th Circuit Court Judge

Markenzy Lapointe, D, Miami-Dade Attorney

Craig Leen, NPA, Miami-Dade Attorney

Patricia Lucas, D, Pinellas, Retired Manatee County School Assistant Superintendent

Robert Maldonado, D, Alachua, Legal Extern, Jacksonville Area Legal Aid

Gregory Newburn, R, Alachua, State Policy Director at Families Against Mandatory Minimums

Rich Newsome, R, Orange Partner at Newsome Melton Law Firm

Jeanette Nunez, R, Miami-Dade, Consultant / House Member

Paula O'Neil, R, Pasco, Pasco County Clerk of the Cicuit Court & Comptroller

Tom Regnier, R, Broward, Appellate Attorney

David Richardson, D, Miami-Dade, CPA / Consultant / House Member

Joseph Semprevivo, R, Indian River, CEO Joseph's Lite Cookies

Greg Steube, R, Sarasota, Attorney / State Senator

Jonathan Tallman, Republican, Okaloosa, Insurance / Financial Advisor

Ollie Taylor, D, Advisor at the National Assn of Black and White Men Together / Miami-Dade County Elections Precinct Clerk

John Tobia, R, Brevard, Former Member & Valencia College Professor

Robert White, R, Brevard, Chairman, Republican Liberty Caucus of Florida

Kenneth Wilkinson, R, Lee, Lee County Property Appraiser

Tyler Winik, R, Orange, Brevard County Clerk of the Circuit Court

John Wood, R, Polk, Former Florida House member & Ceo John Wood Enterprises

Frank Zilaitis, R, Brevard, Attorney / Owner of Zilaitis Law, P.A.

Applicants to Supreme Court Chief Justice Jorge Labarga -- 3 appointments

* Debbie Crockett, D, Tampa, Attorney

* Anne Gannon, D, Delray Beach, Palm Beach County Tax Collector

* Arthenia Joyner, D, Tampa, Attorney

* Joseph Little, Gainesville, D, retired UF Professor of Law

* Joseph Matthews, D, Coral Gables, Attorney

* Barry Richard, D, Tallahassee, attorney, former member of Florida House 1974-78

* Isaac Ruiz-Carus, D, Tampa, Attorney

* Steven Specht, D, Pensacola, FSU Researcher, Air Force Veteran, 2016 congressional candidate

* Elijah Smiley, D, Panama City, Judge

* Daniel Wilhite, D, Tampa, Banker

* Mark Zientz, D, Miami, Attorney

* Jason Handin, NPA, Boynton Beach, Attorney

* George Knox, NPA, Port St. Lucie, Attorney/Mediator

* Gregory McAloon, NPA, Fort Lauderdale, Attorney

* Jeffrey Kottkamp, R, Tallahassee, former Florida Lieutenan Governor, Florida House 2000-06, Attorney

* Roberto Martiniz, R, Coral Gables, Attorney/Shareholder (Colton Hick Eidson)

* Steven Maxwell, R, Sanibel, Teacher Am. Government Lee County Schools

* Mark Moriarty, R, Venice, City Attorney

* Peter Webster, R, Tallahassee, Attorney, Judge

* Tyler Winik, R, Orlando, work for Brevard County Clerk of Circuit Court

* William Gary Beard

* David Brunell

* Thomas Burnett

* Richard J. Caldwell

* Dick Collins,

* Debra Curtis, Fort Lauderdale, Professor of Law, Nova Southeastern

* Winston "Bud" Gardner, Engineer, retired state senator

* Larry Gillis, Cape Coral, Attorney, Prof. of Legal Studies

* Richard Grant, Naples, Attorney

* Jason Johnson, Panama City, Attorney

* Paul Lester, Miami, Attorney

* Robert Morris, Lakeland, Judge, Florida Court of Appeal 2nd District

* Michelle Suarez, Plantation, Attorney

* Alex Villalobos, Miami, attorney former Florida Senate and Florida House

* Daniel Weiss, Miami, Attorney

Sources: Florida Office of the Governor, Florida Senate, Florida House, Florida Senate and LeRoy Collins Institute at FSU