Each spring, politically engaged students from Florida’s colleges and universities gather at the Future of Florida Summit to solve pressing issues facing the state. Sponsored by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, the summit aims to establish a tradition of statewide intercollegiate political activism, inspire students to champion solutions to difficult challenges, and promote the free and open exchange of ideas.
In its fourth year, the summit brought together more than 125 students, representing 25 of Florida’s higher education institutions, to discuss the approaching Florida Constitution Revision Commission and learn more about the role, scope, and direction of state government.
Twelve groups of students worked with state policy experts and leaders including former Florida Gov. and U.S. Sen. Graham, former Florida Attorney General Bob Butterworth, former Florida Supreme Court Justice James Perry, and UF Law Dean Emeritus Jon Mills to discuss possible changes to the constitution. Participants were then tasked with drafting proposed amendments and presenting their recommendations to a panel of six judges. At the conclusion of the summit, the following three proposals were sent to the commission for consideration:
- Increase the mandatory retirement age for judges from 70 to 75;
- Eliminate the write-in loophole in elections; and
- Change elected constitutional officer positions in non-charter counties to nonpartisan.
The commission held a series of public hearings across the state, and student representatives from the summit publicly presented the proposals to members of the commission in Orlando, Tallahassee, and Gainesville.
While it remains unclear if the proposals submitted by the students will be placed on the ballot in 2018, participants left with a more thorough understanding of the revision process, the state’s biggest challenges and the opportunity to have a deliberative voice in democracy. Though a relatively young program, Future of Florida Summit has become a hallmark program for the Bob Graham Center and a premier nonpartisan gathering for students from around the state.