- Making Modern Florida: How the Spirit of Reform Shaped a New State Constitution by Mary E. Adkins
Mary E. Adkins, a professor at the University of Florida's Levin College of Law, has written a political history of Florida's current constitution. Adkins argues that the constitution, created by a select commission that worked from 1966 to 1967, was the product of a confluence of multiple factors: post– World War II reformist efforts, the U.S. Supreme Court's reapportionment decisions under Chief Justice Earl Warren, and the unique budgetary and regulatory pressures caused by the large number of people migrating to southern Florida throughout the first half of the twentieth century. Although Adkins touches on southern regional politics, of which Florida was representative, her main concern is how state-level political officials and some nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) achieved constitutional changes in the postwar period. [End Page 217]
Florida's unique geography—sparsely populated central and southern regions and an agriculturally organized northern region—allowed for a small clique of state-level public officials to dominate political power. This so-called Pork Chop Gang—rural officials, mostly from north Florida—staunchly resisted reapportionment and budgetary and tax reform as new residents migrated to central and southern Florida. As Adkins notes, by 1960 native-born Floridians constituted only 38.1 percent of the state's population. Re-apportionment figures prominently in Adkins's account, and she is right to provide a broader legal history of the Supreme Court reapportionment cases, including Baker v. Carr (1962), Reynolds v. Sims (1964), and Swann v. Adams (1962), the last of which was a Florida-based case.
However, reapportionment was not the only reason for Florida's new constitution in 1968. As Adkins notes, NGOs, such as the Florida Bar Association and the League of Women Voters, attempted to overhaul the constitution beginning shortly after World War II. These private efforts held little promise until reformers within the government, starting with Governor LeRoy Collins in the mid-1950s, publicly and persistently urged constitutional reform. Collins had been elected with strong support from voters in the growing population centers of south Florida. The state-based push factors included not only rotten boroughs but also many other issues, such as the lack of a lieutenant governor, whether race-based voting rights would be recognized, whether to lower the voting age, whether to consolidate the patchwork and overlapping jurisdictions of administrative agencies, whether to create a uniform court system, types of taxation, home rule for cities and counties, and whether to allow citizen involvement in constitutional change.
Adkins devotes most of her historical account to the state's Constitution Revision Commission (CRC). The CRC, established in 1966, was the key entity that proposed and formulated the constitution that voters ratified in 1968. Adkins rightly pays much attention to the work of this body. She also recognizes how central particular respected individuals were in shaping the provisions that the CRC ultimately submitted to the state legislature and voters. Adkins concludes that the CRC was a direct product of the Supreme Court's reapportionment cases. But the CRC contemplated wholesale reform, as Adkins's research shows, which had been sought since the end of World War II. In fact, the legislature often put off considering the CRC's proposed constitution to address education and property tax policies.
Adkins's history of Florida's constitutional reform process is suitable not only for those interested in Florida's history but also for students, historians, and political scientists interested in how national and local issues combined in the twentieth century to produce political change. She uses a combination of original sources, including oral histories, documentary collections, and her own interviews with surviving public officials. Making Modern Florida: How the Spirit of Reform Shaped a New State Constitution is a welcome addition to the literature on postwar state constitutional change. [End Page 218]