House Speaker Richard Corcoran on Thursday criticized Constitution Revision Commission chair Carlos Beruff for scheduling four public hearings in the middle of the legislative session, when five of his nine appointees, all legislators, are unavailable to attend.
"When you have such a once-in-20-year august body, dealing with something of the highest impact -- which is our Constitution -- and you only have a limited number of members, 37, and immediately the first action is to disenfranchise one sixth, I don't think that is a good start,'' Corcoran told reporters on Thursday.
On Wednesday, Beruff announced four public hearing dates and sites for the 37-member panel charged with recommending revisions to the state constitution and placing them on the 2018 ballot.
The meetings will be held in Orlando on Wednesday, March 29, in Miami on Thursday, April 6, in Boca Raton on Friday, April 7 and in Pensacola on Wednesday April 12.
The House has committee meetings and or floor session scheduled for each of those days with the exception of Friday, April 7, and lawmakers would have to get an excused absence from House or Senate leadership to attend the public hearings in person.
Corcoran named to the commission Sens. Tom Lee, R-Thonotosassa, Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, and House Reps. Jose Felix Diaz, R-Miami, Jeanette Nunez, R-Miami, and Chris Sprowls, R-Palm Harbor.
The Constitution Revision Commission convened for the first time on Monday and immediately ran into trouble when Beruff was forced to delay a vote on the pending rules amid concern raised by several members.
Update: Meredith Beatrice, external affairs director of the CRC, responded to Corcoran's comments late Thursday, noting that there will be more hearings scheduled for legislators to attend.
"As a commission which meets just once every 20 years, commissioners have a responsibility to be accountable to the people of Florida and accomplish as much as we can in the short time we have,'' she said. "The work before this commission is incredibly important. We will be working with all commissioners on additional public hearings to ensure the best possible outcome for families in our state.
"It is very important commissioners participate and hear from the public. That is why we only released a few dates, more will be scheduled soon. Videos of the meetings will also be posted online."