UCF Student’s Unique Influence on Florida’s Constitution
Nicholas Maier, a political science and environmental engineering student at the University of Central Florida, was one of the UCF students chosen to attend the 2017 Future of Florida Summit at the University of Florida.
The event, which was held Feb. 10-12, focused on the upcoming 2017-18 Florida Constitution Revision Commission. Commissioned every 20 years, the group of appointed members will have the power to put constitutional changes directly on the November 2018 ballot. The revision process is unique to Florida as it provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to directly influence Florida’s Constitution.
The students who attended the summit applied online for this competitive opportunity. They learned about the revision process and the history of Florida’s Constitution from the state’s leading scholars. According to Maier, summit attendees were also able to attend breakout groups on specific issues in Florida politics that interested them.
“I learned from experts about important Florida environmental and electoral issues and possible amendments to the Florida Constitution addressing these issues that could come from next year’s Constitution Revision Commission,” said Maier.
As a participant, Maier also had the opportunity to learn about civic engagement and other Florida government topics from former Florida Governor and U.S. Senator Bob Graham and former U.S. Representative Gwen Graham.
In addition, UCF’s own Associate Professor of political science, Aubrey Jewett, Ph.D., spoke at the summit as one of the many distinguished members of Florida’s civic life and government.
Maier was part of a student team that had the privilege of drafting a proposed Florida constitutional amendment to allow citizens to introduce statewide legislation through the initiative petition process, which could increase the power and involvement of Florida residents in their state government.
“With this system,” Maier explained, “proposed laws with enough signatures would go directly on the ballot to be decided by Florida voters.”
Maier and his team presented the proposal to a panel of expert judges including a member of the last Constitution Revision Commission in 1998 and Florida State Representative Sean Shaw.
Maier expressed how educational this experience was for him.
“Over the course of the weekend I gained a much deeper knowledge of the Florida State Constitution, the process to amend it, and the status of the different environmental and electoral issues within Florida politics and government,” said Maier.