Taking an opportunity that comes once every 20 years, a group of Florida college students are trying to propose changes to the state’s constitution.
Students chosen at the Future of Florida Summit, held in February at UF, will submit three possible amendments to the state’s constitution revision commission this year, said TJ Pyche, the chair of the summit’s student organizing committee. Some of the 37-member constitution revision commission will meet April 26 at UF’s Phillips Center for the Performing Arts for a public hearing, part of the year they are given to gather ideas.
The commission will review amendments proposed by the public and choose some for voter consideration for the 2018 general election ballot. This is one of five ways the Florida constitution can be amended, said Pyche, a 22-year-old UF journalism senior.
The February summit was hosted by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service and about 130 students attended — with about 70 from UF and the rest from about 25 other Florida colleges and universities. The students were divided into groups and encouraged to brainstorm ideas, with each group presenting to a panel of six judges, who chose the best three.
“I think it exposed a lot of students to a process that a lot of folks don’t know about and that the state of Florida faces,” Pyche said.
The summit’s three proposed amendments are raising judges’ obligatory retirement age from 70 to 75 years, requiring school superintendents, county commissioners and other elected constitutional officer positions to be non-partisan in non-charter counties, and getting rid of a write-in loophole for elections, said Trevor Tezel, a second-year UF law student who attended the summit.
The winning groups, with the help of Tezel and other UF law students, are drafting papers to further ex- plain the amendments. Tezel said he became involved with the project because he thinks students’ ideas are often overlooked.
“I see this as an opportunity to elevate the students’ place in the conversation on Florida’s constitution,” the 24-year-old said.
Jon Mills, UF’s Levin College of Law dean emeritus, said he was one of the judges at the summit. Mills, who was on the 1997-1998 constitution revision commission, said he was impressed with the students’ ideas.
“I was very impressed by their dedication and thoughts,” Mills said. “I think these students are part of the generation that’s going to be living with this constitution.”
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