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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
Interviewee: Richard Pettigrew
Interviewer: Denise Stobbie
Date: December 16, 1986
S: First let me ask you to state your name, city, and county of residence?
P: Richard A. Pettigrew, Dade County, and I live in the city of Coral Gables, 1151
S: How were you appointed to serve on the commission?
P: I was the selected by the then Speaker E.C. Rowell [E.C. Rowell, member,
Florida House of Representatives (1957-1970)] to my consternation and shock,
as a Dade County representative. I had an uneasy relationship with him.
S: How long had you been serving in the legislature at that point?
P: I started as a result of a special election in 1963, ordered by the court. I was
reelected without opposition in 1964 and then received the news from E.C.
Rowell, I think after the conclusion of either the first session or the regular
session in 1965, that the commission had been established. He was appointing
me as a member from the House.
S: And that came as a surprise?
P: A strong surprise.
S: Had you done any previous work on constitution revision?
P: Other than having proposed a constitutional amendment or two, the answer is
no. I had been interested in permitting the governor to reelect himself. I may
have introduced that idea in the 1965 session, or something to do with that; I do
not recall for sure. It seems to me that I had sponsored or co-sponsored some
individual constitutional amendments that had been considered but did not go
S: Why do you feel you were appointed to serve on this commission?
P: To this day I do not know why. I very much wanted to be on it, but I had not
lobbied for it. I had not waged a campaign to get the appointment. Since Rowell
and I had an uneasy relationship that began with the candidacy of Earl Faircloth
[Earl Faircloth, member, Florida House of Representatives (1962-1963)], who
was interested in running for the Speaker's office, I was very surprised that he
named me. I had had a good session. My first session went undistinguished,
but during my second session I was named the second term member showing
the greatest development. It is conceivable that that had something to do with it.
I have no idea. I was a lawyer, and I was interested in constitutional revision.
But, whether that had any impact I do not know.
S: So, you were interested and you felt that the constitution needed revision?
P: Oh, desperately, yes. I was acquainted with the earlier efforts of prior governors
and the Florida Bar to achieve constitutional reform. I realized that it had all been
thwarted by reapportionment problems.
S: Had you done any work with those committees?
P: No, but I was politically active in the state, which included my involvement in the
Young Democrats, and of course the Young Lawyers Section of Dade County. I
was somewhat knowledgeable of a number of issues that needed to be
addressed in the state.
S: Now as far as committee appointments, you served as a member of the Local
Government Committee, and the Suffrage and Elections Committee--Suffrage
and Elections with George Stallings [George B. Stallings, Jr., member, Florida
House of Representatives (1959-1968)], Bill Young [C. W. Young, member,
Florida Senate (1961-1970)], Warren Goodrich [Warren M. Goodrich, lawyer,
graduate, University of Florida law school, 1948] and Richard Earle; and local
government with Mr. Gautier [Jeff D. Gautier, member, Florida House of
Representatives (1966-1974)], Ralph Marsicano [Ralph A. Marsicano, league
counsel, Florida League of Cities (1949-1980)], Joe Jacobs [Joseph C. Jacobs,
First Assistant Attorney General of Florida (1958-1964)], Sidney Martin [Sidney
Martin, member, Florida House of Representatives (1974-1975)], and John
Crews [John J. Crews, Jr., member, Florida House of Representatives
(1953-1966)]. How did these two committee appointments come about? Were
these particular interests of yours?
P: Not particularly. I had an overwhelming interest in executive reorganization, and
legislative reorganization. But I think Chesterfield [Chesterfield Smith, graduate,
University of Florida law school, 1948] was trying to avoid putting me on three
committees, knowing my strong feelings. After having been invited early on at
one of our original meetings, in which we debated the issues that we were
supposed to address in the new constitution, I had been assigned to speak on
the executive article and had made an impassioned plea for reform of that article.
I had proposed, among other things in that speech, to permit the governor to
succeed himself, to create a lieutenant governor, to retreat from the cabinet
system, which I strongly criticized, and to put in a provision that would limit the
number of executive departments and agencies to no more than twenty.
S: To whom did you address that speech?
P: It was to the full commission. In our early organizational meetings, in which
some of the most important events took place, and in which some of the most
important things I did in the commission occurred, I made an impassioned
speech that got everybody thinking about the issues of executive reorganization.
I strongly recommended two terms for the governor and the creation of a
lieutenant governor so that the succession would be established by the governor.
In addition to assaulting the Cabinet system, which I proposed be abolished as
elective positions, I said that we had a hodgepodge of executive agencies that
had not been reorganized since time immemorial and desperately needed
reorganization on a functional basis. I had a great deal of influence on the
ultimate product insofar as the executive branch limitation of the number of
agencies was concerned, and on the two-term provision. We struggled and
struggled with the lieutenant governor issue and finally, if I recall correctly, the
Secretary of State was to be designated under commission draft as the
successor. I opposed that and later overrode it within the legislature itself and
was able to get the current provision adopted. It was really my proposal. So,
what we wound up with was putting in concrete an elective Cabinet, but we also
strengthened the governor in the sense that he could run for reelection and
would have a lieutenant governor elected with him, who would be committed to
his program, be of the same party, and the like. At that time we felt the two-party
era was strongly upon us because we had just seen Governor Kirk [Claude Kirk,
Jr., Governor of Florida (1967-1971)] elected as a Republican and Senator
Gurney [Edward J. Gurney, U. S. Senator from Florida (1968-1974)] elected.
Therefore, we knew that there was a strong trend toward the two-party system.
Because Governor Kirk's term was not that successful, Reubin Askew won in the
1970 election [Reubin Askew, Governor of Florida (1971-1979)]. We have had
two outstanding Florida governors succeed since that point in Askew and
Graham, for a total of sixteen years. Their leadership has kept Florida
Democratic at the state level, even though we would lose the elections nationally,
except in the case of President Carter [James Earl Carter, President of the
United States (1977-1981)] in his first term. But we also retained strong
majorities in the House and the Senate, which are at least nominally Democratic.
S: Why were you interested in strengthening the power of the governor?
P: I had a political science background, and had a little training in public
administration--a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. I just liked the logic of a
strong legislature constituting the checks and balances on a strong governor,
together with the independent judiciary. I felt that that would be enough checks
and balances; that we did not need what had been another major check and
balance on the governor--that being an elective Cabinet system that the governor
merely chaired. For instance, the governor was at that time the chairman of the
Budget Commission, but each member of the Cabinet had an equal vote on
budget matters. So, the spending priorities were set collectively by trading rather
than having any coherent setting of priorities for state spending. And one of the
key reforms we tried to implant was to transfer that power to the Governor.
Budgeting was an enormously important part of the executive power that was
diffused, and, therefore, there was no real accountability. I was very interested
in fixing responsibility and accountability for executive actions. I was concerned
about Civil Rights issues and about who was going to provide the leadership in
those areas, and I believed that the old time elected Cabinet members were
either ducking such issues as too controversial or acting as a restraint, when
serving as members of the Board of Education and so forth. They would not help
courageous Governors like LeRoy Collins get out and protect the public school
system of the state. So, I was suspicious of the general responsiveness of
independently elected cabinet members whose constituencies were not broad
based but were narrow, whether it be concerned with the commission of
Agriculture, or whether it be lawyers interested in Attorney General, or bankers
and security brokers in the Comptroller. I remember the case of the insurance
commissioner who was created by statute because there was not enough for a
Treasurer, alone, to do to justify a separate election. So we had designated
responsibilities of elected Cabinet officers to give their positions more meaning. I
thought there was an illogical arrangement of functions. They were historical
only. It was not rational to reorganize the executive branch on a functional basis,
to get like functions together under appropriate appointees of the governor, so
that many of these functions needed to be transferred into those agencies rather
than being administered collegially by the Governor and Cabinet. Sometimes
there would be rejection of the Governor's positions on the issues, but to my
mind he should always have the final authority, because he was the only
statewide elected official with a truly statewide constituency.
S: Well, there was a good deal of support for an appointed cabinet, but I suppose
there was enough on the other side that that never got out of commission.
P: Most of the State senators and persons who had a Tallahassee base on the
commission, Tallahassee people who were practicing before the Cabinet and so
forth, felt that it was their responsibility to defend the current system, and
philosophically thought it worked well because they met each week and the
public could come to make a presentation on the subjects of concern.
S: Did you have any conversations with Cabinet members about your feelings at
P: I received a lot of criticism from cabinet members but I became speaker of the
house despite that. After constitutional revision, I then headed the Committee on
Executive Reorganization which did enact fundamental, far reaching changes in
rearrangement of state functions at the expense of the elective cabinet and to the
benefit of the Governor. I was in charge of implementing my plan, covering
twenty-five departments. Fred Shultz gave me that chairmanship on the
Governmental Reorganization and Efficiency Committee and I had a high
powered group in the House. I went outside and got top notch consultants and
we implemented the kind of functional rearrangements that we were trying to
accomplish. But, there were constitutional constraints remaining that protected
certain cabinet agencies from being reorganized. We tried to place the Game
and Fish Commission, for instance, into a large environmental agency and make
it merely a division of an agency. But clearly that had constitutional problems
and later the Game and Fish Commission was declared an independent agency.
S: Did all this come out the way you had hoped with the reorganization?
P: Well, we had a massive collision with the Senate which was protective of the
cabinet system at that time and resisting what I was trying to do. Remember, in
the 1968 session on Constitutional Revision I had served on the final conference
committee of the House and Senate. I offered an amendment at that time which
provided that a mandatory reduction of departments and agencies to not more
than twenty-five would be accomplished by the next regular session of the
legislature and would become effective on July 1, 1969. That was kind of the first
constitutional sunset and we argued that that was the effect of it--no agency then
existing would have any power to act after July 1, 1969 unless the reorganization
were accomplished as mandated by the new constitution. I deliberately did that
because I knew that there was going to be enormous resistance to meaningful
reorganization. So then, we rammed most of executive reorganization through,
making compromises here and there as we had to. But we achieved a lot of key
objectives, particularly moving personal authority and the planning of a budget to
the governor essentially.
S: What an undertaking that must have been.
P: That was one of the bloodiest fights that the Florida Legislature has ever
endured. So, my interest in executive reorganization got me into the
reorganization itself by statute and then I had to do a lot of fence mending with
Cabinet members because, even though I had been designated as Speaker of
the House for the 1970-1972 term, I had made enemies while carrying out
executive reorganization. At one point during consideration of the reorganization
bill on the floor of the House, all the Democrats who were opposed to the
executive reorganization, which were a majority of the Democratic caucus that
had designated me to be Speaker, stormed off the floor and forced the Speaker,
Fred Schultz, to put up their representatives on the conference committee. We
had a coalition of Republicans and urban Democrats who were favoring this
executive reorganization. And we rammed it through even though I knew that I
was jeopardizing my Speakership. I spent the next year trying to make peace. I
was finally able to survive continuing opposition from some Democrats and
Republicans, who formed a coalition to try to unseat me similar to the one that
now exists in the Senate against me. And so, I had to overcome all those
obstacles to become Speaker.
S: When did you become Speaker?
P: I became Speaker in 1970 and we then readdressed Article V, which had not
been accomplished in 1968. The legislature could not get it out. A version came
out for a vote in 1970, but it was defeated. I was determined along with others
that we were going to get that out and get it done. So, I made Representative
Sandy D'Alemberte chairman of the Judiciary Committee, and that was one of
the major accomplishments of the term. With strong support from Governor
Askew and various people from the Senate, including Senator Barron [Dempsey
J. Barron, member, Florida Senate (1961-1975)], who was a key figure in that
fight, a highly controversial judicial reorganization was put into the constitution.
S: So you were actively supporting reorganization and involved in getting that
through the legislature.
P: I had a broad program as speaker, and the Judiciary Committee of the House
was in charge of getting out new Article V that would be acceptable to the
S: The 1969 legislature accepted that article and it went to the voters in 1970 and
was rejected. What changes were made in the next legislature before it went
back to the voters? Were there any major changes at that point?
P: It has been so long since I looked at those. One of the major criticisms was that
the 1970 version was not far reaching enough, so we passed a more drastic
version of the form than had been previously proposed, including the phasing out
of all municipal courts and so on. We created a central administration in the
court system under the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and created a court
administrator in the like. All of that emanated from Judicial Reorganization.
S: Had you been practicing law before going into the legislature?
S: Had you practiced in the Courts, and were you involved in trial work?
P: Yes, I was a trial lawyer.
S: Was there a real problem in the courts at that time?
P: Judges at that time were elected in partisan elections. The governor filled
vacancies without any kind of screening except by local patronage committees of
the governor. And there was a very uneven quality on the bench at all levels
from the Supreme Court on down. Some of our objectives were to create judicial
nominating commissions that would nominate highly-qualified persons who would
apply. Then the Governor would appoint from among those nominated whom the
nominating committee had screened and certified insofar as appellate court
vacancies were concerned.
S: Did these commissions come out of this?
P: Yes, that was part of it. And the second thing was that, short of impeachment,
there was no way to discipline them at the time, for there were no disciplinary
provisions. The judicial qualification commission structure was authorized and
established. So, proper court administration, and discipline and limitations on
gubernatorial appointing power were our goals. The governor would of course
be involved heavily in appointing the nominees to the nominating commission. I
have not seen governors complaining at all about this. I think they like the
insulation in the decision-making process from the pressure of patronage
committees. And we believe, from my observation, that over the years this has
resulted in a much stronger judicial branch in Florida. That does not mean that
there were not very fine judges in the past who were seated by the old process.
But on the balance, we have much greater numbers of well qualified people,
including women and minorities' representatives as well.
S: And that all happened in the House while you were Speaker, the votes, because
that was 1970 and 1972.
P: The judicial article, yes. We had an election in which we did Article V, and added
in corporate income tax. Then we had sessions that implemented both of those
major changes. We passed the statute implementing the corporate income tax.
That was one thing that the Constitutional Revision Commission had not been
able to address--that is, any meaningful opening up of areas previously
constitutionally limited from taxation. The tendency had been to restrain the
power of the legislature to tax, rather than to open up areas. Corporate and
personal income taxes were prohibited in the old constitution and we continued in
the Revision Commission to retain the prohibitions because there was no
adequate support for change at that time.
S: While interviewing Governor Askew, just before interviewing you, he was saying
that he was able to benefit from your effort--that is, strengthening the office of
P: That was done over his objections as a member of the Constitutional Revision
Commission. He was a big defender of the Cabinet system, until he became
governor, and then he said, Dick, you were right.
P: Yes. But, when he became Governor, he could see the constraints and
limitations on executive power that a collegial administration created. Also,
constraints developed because the major functions of the Governor were carried
out by independent elected officials, rather than the one elected executive with a
S: What was your relationship with Governor Kirk while all this was going on?
P: Well, I worked heavily through the Republican minority in the House. Are you
talking about during the implementation of executive reorganization?
P: Kirk was very supportive of the Constitutional Revision Commission's efforts, as
least publicly. As we became more involved, he wanted to have some changes
that I think were broader, and he did not like the Cabinet system, which he called
the "seven governor" system. But, he went along with the Commission's
recommendations and decided that this would be a major thing that he would
endorse and support. Then when it was adopted, the next major thing was
executive reorganization. At that point the effort to come out with a very
meaningful re-structuring was something he was very strongly supportive of. We
told him that because the opposition consisted entirely of Democrats--we were all
Democrats in the majority of the House--we wanted to do the work internally in
the House with the minority representatives, including Joel Gustafson [Joel K.
Gustafson, member, Florida House of Representatives (1967-1972)], Don Reed
[Donald H. Reed, Jr., member, Florida House of Representatives (1963-1972)]
and others. The liaison, then, would not be very visible to the governor's office.
Ray Osborne [Raymond C. Osborne, member, Florida House of Representatives
(1965-1968), Lieutenant Governor of Florida (1969-1970)] and others would keep
the governor apprised via the liaison, but because Kirk had been so controversial
and so partisan his image, it was a problem for those of us in Democratic
leadership to deal directly with him. What we tried to keep in focus was what
made sense, what was right regardless of who is governor. That is a hard thing
to sell when you are taking power away from Democratic Constitutional Officers
and transferring it into the hands of an existing Republican government, while
justifying your actions to pro-cabinet Democrats. I said, look, this guy is going to
be defeated at the end of the 1972 elections. There is no way he can get
reelected. We will have a governor elected who will have meaningful authority.
So, do not worry about the immediate impact of this, but the long term impact is
going to make important changes in the executive structure. So, just as we were
bringing the bill out--we had it scheduled to come out of committee and ready to
go to the floor--Governor Kirk requested the Democratic leaders to address a
joint session of the legislature to advise us of his position on the pay raise. He
announced his veto of the major legislative pay raise that increased the pay from
$100 a month to $1,000 a month under the new constitution's legislative system
of annual sessions and year round obligations of legislators. We had gone from
meeting sixty days every two years, and rarely in between, to a system that
required us to meet annually, have standing committees year round, organize
two weeks after election, and work the entire term on a part-time basis. We had
to increase the pay because everybody had been suffering from the large
numbers of special sessions, the crises that were created by the reapportionment
decision of the Federal Courts, and new elections that were called in 1967 right
after the 1966 general election. A few months after, we would all go into the
education special session in the fall of 1967 and the education strike, and the
Constitutional Revision special session. We were all financially hurting and had
to go into numerous special sessions and new elections which were terribly
disruptive financially, and a lot of us had no money except what we had coming
in from our other sources of income, but no time to devote to those other duties.
So, this was all very time consuming and we had to get fair starting salaries. I
waded into that and insisted that we not compromise on a fair starting salary. A
lot of people wanted to go with 6,000, 8,000, or 10,000 dollars. I insisted that we
get it up as high as we could initially because it would be hard to address it
anymore for quite awhile and we had to have some relief. That prevailed. But,
Governor Kirk, because he knew he was in political trouble, then saw an
opportunity to gain popularity at the expense of the Democratic majority by
vetoing the pay raise which a number of the Republicans were against on a
political basis. The Orlando Sentinel took it up as a crusade calling it "a 1,000%
pay increase," not demagoging it as far as I am concerned. So, the two of them
(the paper and the Governor) went on this crusade against the legislature, and
this made things difficult for a period of time. So, then we had to take executive
reorganization off the calendar, and keep it in committee. Then we overrode his
veto because we had already previously gotten a commitment from the minority
leadership. They had made a recommendation to the Governor, and the
Governor had assured Don Reed, the minority leader, that he would approve it.
But when the Orlando Sentinel made it such a big issue he saw the opportunity
politically to get on that bandwagon. He took that stance and that really hurt him
over the remainder of his term because he created many enemies within the
Republican party. We immediately overrode the veto on the legislative pay raise
which we had to get out of our throats. It was like a bone in your throat--if you
cannot get it out, you cannot do anything. You must get it out and deal with it.
So, after we got that passed and everything calmed down again, then we brought
the executive reorganization up. It was easy to work up the same opposition
again on the idea that we were going to transfer great power to this weird guy.
So, that was a very trying time.
S: And you lived to tell about it.
P: I survived for awhile, politically anyway. I became a very strong Speaker. I had
no problems of rebellion or anything after I became Speaker. I had a very
smooth speakership even though we were doing a lot of controversial things.
But, by the time I ran for the United States Senate, I had made so many enemies
that that would really hurt me.
S: Well, do you think it was worth it?
P: Yes, I think those changes were important. I told them at the time that the
majority of the House Democrats walked out and tried to intimidate me as the
Speaker Designate. I made up my mind that the bill was more important than the
Speakership, regardless of what happened later on. So, that was the way I
S: So those were your main interests in serving on the Commission, those areas.
P: I would not say that those were the main interests. I was very strongly committed
to annual sessions. Another idea I proposed in my initial speech to the
commission was the establishment of the legislatively appointed auditor, and we
put that in the Constitutional Revision Commission's recommendations. Prior to
that time the state auditor, who was supposed to be conducting the independent
audit of the executive branch, was appointed by the governor and served at his
pleasure. The result was that you never had any prompt audits. All the audits of
executive functions tended to be so late in being published that they were all
moot. Time had passed, it was a year or two ago, and we were in a new budget
cycle and the like. It just had no impact. I recommended a strong, dependent,
legislatively appointed Auditor-General who would have the authority to do the
audits of all the executive agencies and give us the fiscal check that we needed
and who could conduct management audits at legislative direction as well. That
was a very important change of power vis-a-vis the executive branch, and a very
important part of the checks and balances that now exist.
S: So that change was included in the revisions. Did it make it all the way through?
P: It went into effect. Lou Wolfson [Louis Wolfson II, member, Florida House of
Representatives (1963-1972)] who was working with me in the whole legislative
reorganization effort, developed a plan which he moved through the legislature to
create the legislative auditor. But, once that legislation was in place, he went
over and got the state auditor to agree to become a legislative auditor and moved
the entire staff over to the legislative auditor. We have never reconstituted the
state auditor since. In fact, we later abolished the executive auditor's office. The
Auditor-General became responsible to a joint legislative audit committee. The
other area I was very interested in and worked hard on was local home rule. I
was generally supportive of the election changes we had made and was
supportive of the eighteen year old vote. Of course, that was later lost in the
legislature. In the legislature, I was also on the Style and Drafting Committee
and on the Conference Committee. And then I devised a strategy of breaking up
this package into three votes. Originally, it had been packaged as four.
Originally, we were going to take the eighteen year old vote proposal which we
knew was controversial and separate it. We separated the judicial article, but
then we lost it on the floor of the House so we could not put it out to the people in
1968. I think the Home Rule provision was the third thing we planned to put out
on the ballot.
S: Why were you going to separate the eighteen year old vote?
P: It was very controversial. That was the reason why it was separated, and when
we lost it on the House floor and it went back to twenty-one, we said, well, there
is going to be a big fight if we put it all back in one package anyway. We do not
want just two votes because we will still be vulnerable to the charge that we had
forced the people to vote yeah or nay on a whole bunch of changes in a single
vote. So, we will just keep that separate. It was meaningless as a separate
issue, it was totally non-controversial. The local government article was
potentially controversial because a lot of the locally elected officials were
concerned that by adopting local charter amendments, the public could abolish
the sheriffs, county tax assessors, tax collectors and so on. And so they were
very concerned that we would even authorize that. Previously these affairs had
been constitutionally designated. I insisted that we take the basic document, put
all of our really fundamental changes other than what were at local levels in one
vote, have Article V out separate and have the eighteen year old vote out
separate. That was the original plan. When we lost article V and lost the
eighteen year old vote, we kept the local government and elections articles out
for separate vote. This way we completely diffused that which had been in other
states a major stumbling block, and that was the notion that you had to vote yeah
or nay on the entire constitution.
S: Well, that is interesting. I wondered how it came to be set up this way. I have
asked so many other members that.
P: That is what happened.
S: But there was nothing else in this?
P: In the revision of the article?
P: It was just language clean up basically.
S: But nothing else that would have been controversial enough to...
P: No, nothing in article VI at all.
S: What were the legislators' reasons? You would have been involved in hearing
the arguments on the voting age since the commission had recommended that it
drop to eighteen.
P: We were then in the Vietnam War and Bill Baggs had taken on a crusade. He
felt that if people were being asked to serve in combat that they ought to have a
right to vote, and to vote on the election of those people who were making those
decisions to send them off to combat. That was a time when that issue was
addressed all over the country. We could not get it done by vote of the people in
Florida. First, we could not get on the ballot. Much later, as you know, there was
a proposal put on the ballot and defeated. We reduced the drinking age and
everything else to eighteen that we could by statute. That has been revisited and
was decided to be a questionable idea.
S: But the commission's recommendations to the legislature was to lower the voting
age. Is that correct?
P: My recollection is that it was included in their recommendations. Bill Baggs, who
was the editor of the Miami News, was deeply concerned about the Vietnam
War, and thought that it was a big mistake. But, he also was a crusader on the
commission for the eighteen year old vote. Various numbers of us were
supportive of it at that time. It was his personal crusade. Ultimately, it was
federally mandated, not at the state level.
S: One other thing that may have been discussed at that time is the subject of
natural resources. There was a new provision put into this constitution dealing
with that. Was that part of the 1960s?
P: Yes, those were the dawnings of the environmental movement and the concern
about the environment and the degradation of our environment. We had certain
legislative battles over construction set back lines on beaches and things like
that. That was strongly resisted because it was a formal zoning and a restriction
on the right to use of property, and we had lots of folks in the legislature at the
time who felt that people should the have the untrammeled right to do whatever
they want to with their property regardless of the consequences to the beach, to
the public generally, or the cost to the community. This notion that was put in the
constitution protecting the natural resources of the state and concerned with air
quality and water quality was the beginning of the realization that these were
major issues that had to be addressed in Florida if we were going to protect our
natural assets and the quality of life. My recollection, however, is that that came
out of the legislature, not the commission. That was a provision put in in the
House. I seem to remember that Murray Dubbin was involved in that issue. I
was supportive of it. This was bland language and was not self-implementing
language. It was a statement.
S: Right, that was a concern.
P: Yes. Let me mention one odd ball thing that we would not otherwise touch upon,
that is Article II, in which the boundaries of the state of Florida are described.
They need to be amended because they are illegal. Those of us who were
involved in the boundaries issue were trying to extend the three leagues of
Florida territory recognized in the Gulf of Mexico, through the Straits of Florida
going all the way up close to Palm Beach, where the Gulf Stream went out of the
Straits into the Atlantic Ocean. There was a lot of disagreement on what the Gulf
of Mexico included. We took the proactive position that it included the Straits of
Florida which would have extended the three mile limit of Florida territory in the
Straits to three leagues. If you read carefully the boundaries description, you will
see clearly what we were intending. On the Atlantic Ocean we have a three mile
limit for the territory of both the United States and the State of Florida, but
beginning on the Gulf of Mexico including the Straits of Florida we assert three
leagues jurisdiction. Some people at that time were becoming aware of issues
about the control of natural resources and the sea bed, and the extent to which
fisheries and other things could be protected beyond the three mile limit. We are
all interested in these issues. You might not understand how that provision got
there, unless somebody recalls a little oral history perhaps. The legislature itself
was in charge of changing the commission's recommendations on state mariners
to include these broader boundaries. This extension was later declared
unconstitutional as a violation of federal law. The tip of Florida is the Dry
Tortugas. Florida's boundaries in the Gulf are three leagues. But, southerly from
the Dry Tortugas, you only go three miles. So, the straits of Florida are deemed
to be not a part of the Gulf of Mexico. We were finagling around; we were trying
to accrete power to the state of Florida.
S: I have read about the episode. I will give that a second look. I figured nothing
would have been done with that. That is interesting. So, that was not changed?
P: It was changed in the Florida Constitution and it is there today, but it has been
invalidated insofar as it purports to extend our authority three leagues into the
Straits of Florida.
S: So how does it read right now?
P: If you read it, it says where the boundary goes from the Dry Tortugas, which is
the southwesterly tip of the state in the island chain, three leagues out to the
west and then three leagues south and right on up through the Straits of Florida,
until we get to the Atlantic Ocean. This is the ill-defined boundary between the
Straits of Florida and the Atlantic Ocean. But, that portion of the boundary
description is in conflict with Federal law and therefore invalid.
S: As far as your work on suffrage in elections, on that committee...
P: I was a proponent of what the commission came out with and our committee had
to fight off those who wanted to keep it at twenty-one.
S: What about the initiative proposal allowing the citizens to amend the constitution?
P: That was one of those that I proposed. We strongly supported all those flexible
means of amendment. Chesterfield Smith and others fathered the initiative
provision and I supported it. I do not remember who else was involved with that.
As to whether I had picked that out among the things I had suggested at some
point, I doubt it. But, it was one of a series of recommendations I had made at
that first organizational meeting, during which we described major issues which
needed to be addressed.
S: Did everybody speak at that meeting?
P: No, Chesterfield Smith had asked a few of us to address some major issues. He
invited me to do it because he wanted to spark meaningful debate about the old
constitution. Whether it was feasible to go in those directions, was not material
at that point. The question was what was the debate going to be about; was it
going to be a very narrow thing or were we going to look at everything. He knew
that I had some views on the subject of a strong governor and so he gave me the
opportunity to make a pitch. Of course, I horrified a lot of folks.
S: Where was that held?
P: In the senate chambers, if I recall correctly.
S: And that is what the first organizational meetings of the commission addressed?
P: Yes. This was very important because we then had informal discussions with
Judge Barkdull and Chesterfield Smith, and they assured me that we were going
to debate those issues, and that we were going to keep those issues on the
S: Do you remember a lot of interest among outsiders at those meetings, among the
media, among other members of the legislature? Did they sit in on that?
P: Well, there were legislative members of course from the House and Senate,
outside of that I know the press was present, I did not know the rest of the gallery
at the time. I do not have any recollection of who was in the gallery.
S: Being a member of the legislature at the time, since so many other members
were not on this commission, were they constantly asking you what was going
P: Those who were particularly interested in it were passing along ideas to us from
time to time. I was trying to keep the people with whom I was quite friendly
apprized of some of the major reforms I was interested in. But, there was no
concerted campaign because the notion was to first get a revision commission
product and then make a presentation to the legislature.
S: So the other legislators knew they would have their chance at it anyway.
P: Oh, yes. It was all coming to the legislature, it was merely a recommendation.
The powers of the commission were advisory only. The legislature, rather than
weakening the commission product, actually strengthened the product. I think
the legislature overall did a good job in dealing with the commission's
S: What was your involvement once this went to the House?
P: I was a major player because I had been on the Commission and was thoroughly
interested and involved in it. I was on the Conference Committee between the
two houses and I had a liaison responsibility with the Senate to try to coordinate
what the House was doing with what the Senate was doing. I cannot remember
all the details. I was a committee member of the Constitutional Revision
Commission that dealt with the product, and came out with the product. I had not
supported Ralph Turlington [Ralph D. Turlington, member, Florida House of
Representatives (1951-1974)] for speaker, instead I had supported Bob Mann
[Robert T. Mann, member, Florida House of Representatives (1957-1968)] in the
sudden election for Speaker. The present Designate, George Stone [George G.
Stone, member, Florida House of Representatives (1957-1966)], was killed in a
car crash. Then there was this battle shortly before the 1967-1968 sessions, in
which Ralph became the Speaker Designate, but I had strongly supported Bob
Mann. So I lost the opportunity to head the committee because I had made the
wrong choice for speaker, but Ralph still included me in the process. Ralph
Turlington was also on the Commission and he disagreed with me on many
aspects of my plan for executive reorganization. But, nonetheless, he did keep
me very much involved in the process even though I did not have the titular
leadership of it. I was extraordinarily active throughout and one of the key
players. I think the others from the House on the Commission had a great impact
on it. Representative Stallings opposed the revision, so he was on the other
S: He was a representative at the time. How did you feel about that? He had
served on the commission.
P: He is a very conservative fellow. I used to kid him about wanting to go back to
the pre-Civil War era. He was very resistant to change.
S: Did he oppose the revision all along?
P: I do not remember when he surfaced his opposition. I remember he did become
an opponent, and I believe he was one of those fighting throughout. I think he
was concerned with local government. He wanted to keep everything just like it
was. He was concerned about the Home Rule provisions and others.
S: We are going to be interviewing him. I know he was involved with the Committee
for Integrity in Government, which came out against this. Do you have anything
to say about that?
P: That was a strange name for that committee.
S: On that, what opposition do you consider to have been the most damaging?
P: A number of the courthouse crowds in the smaller counties and some of the
medium size counties were concerned about their posts being abolished by
charter changes that were authorized by local governments. Those were the
most potent opponents. There was some generalized opposition to a stronger
governor and to annual sessions. I cannot remember how the press lined up, but
most of the press was favorable.
S: I wanted to ask you about something that just came out of the Suffrage and
Elections Committee, which was the provision that called for another revision
commission ten years after the 1966 commission.
P: And then every twenty years thereafter. The idea was that it is hard to get the
legislature interested in calling itself into a constitutional convention. A smaller
body should have the opportunity every twenty years--the first one being ten
years was established because the concern was in the areas we addressed at
S: Why ten years, and not five years?
P: I do not know. Somebody said "you know, about ten years from now we will
have enough experience with it so that we can meaningfully address it and have
time to do a two year preparation for new revisions." And there were some who
felt that some major reforms might be able to be achieved beyond what was
politically viable at the time. But, five years would be too quick. That was a
provision with which I had no problems. I think it was a good idea. The first one
was unsuccessful, but the reason was very clear. At the last minute, in order to
get a majority, they had to accept a more drastic proposal then they wanted.
Some opponents really forced them into going with a complete abolition of a
Cabinet. That just created too much opposition because it was part of the
package, and there were some other things that were controversial. I do not
remember the package. I was in Washington in the White House, with the Carter
S: That was in 1977.
P: I was out of town and out of touch basically with that effort.
S: Now, that also provided for a revision commission every twenty years thereafter.
In the old constitution, was there any such provision?
P: There were only two methods of amendment by legislative proposal for a
constitutional convention. In fact, I think we had to amend the constitution in
advance of the constitutional revision commission's recommendations to
authorize the legislature itself to do a complete revision, rather than by
amendments limited to one article.
S: I know there was an act of the legislature to establish the commission.
P: Prior to that, I think you will find that during the 1963 session there was put on
the ballot an amendment to expand the authority of the legislature to revise more
than one article at a time.
S: Was that modification of "article by article"?
P: Yes. We had to eliminate the prohibition against "Daisy Chain" Amendments so
that there could be a complete work product put out on the ballot for total revision
of the constitution. Then the commission was established, and we got to the total
revision effort. The commission wanted to make it easier to address either
complete revision or article by article revision of the constitution. We did it by a
variety of ways, including the initiative, because there was still a big interest in
things like unicameral legislature and we correctly divined that a bicameral
legislature would never propose that.
S: This is the League of Women's Voters comparison of the old and the new.
P: Okay, I do not remember how the commission had stated the eminent domain
power. During the conference committee between House and Senate, the
House had a provision that mandated a very broad compensation and the
Senate had a very narrow provision consistent with the old law contained in the
1885 version. One of the mistakes that I made at that point, in retrospect, was to
put some language in the constitution that was then subsequently construed. I
had put in the word "full," and that has been construed to be very, very broad and
to prohibit the legislature from limiting eminent domain recoveries for attorneys'
fees, where little or no increase above that which the state offered was achieved
in the trial of the case. By being so broad it probably creates a disincentive to
lawyers to settle and should be readdressed. People familiar with the
Department of Transportation claim that it results in the total cost of eminent
domain being increased significantly because they cannot settle. I think the
legislature ought to readdress that and correct Pettigrew's mistake. I did that
over severe reproval of the then truck lobbyist, E.C. Rowell, who as Speaker,
appointed me to the Commission in the first place. But I was opposed to even
broader language. As a compromise and I think I eliminated some other
provisions by amendment. I had tried to strike a balance in the wording. But
anyway the word "full" was subsequently construed to include attorneys' fees and
costs regardless of whether or not you had received a fair offer and had declined
it. This provision only increased the value by a certain amount. You could not
legislatively limit reasonable attorneys' fees to those fees necessary to get that
additional amount by going to full trial. Instead you were entitled to get all of your
cost and attorneys' fees from the entire proceeding. There was no incentive to
settle. If you thought you could get a few bucks more, you might as well try and
you will get full compensation for your attorneys' fees anyway. So, lawyers that
did not have anything else to do could have something to do--go and try the case
fully. So, that is a mistake.
I was responsible for putting in the lieutenant governor provision. I led the battle
in the house and ultimately we got it passed. That provision too has a flaw in it
that ought to be addressed in future constitutional revision. I strongly believe that
under the two party system a lieutenant governor should run in tandem and the
lieutenant governor should succeed to the governorship--as in the case of Dan
McCarty [Danial T. McCarty, Governor of Florida (1953)], who died shortly after
being sworn into office--rather than the president of the Senate or some
independently elected cabinet officer. The mistake that we have made in the
article, Article IV-Section Va however, was to provide that the governor and
lieutenant governor will follow joint candidacies in primaries and in the general
election. The solution to this is to have the gubernatorial nominee who is
successful in the primary of a party then designate his running mate from among
all Democrats, including those who have just been defeated in the primary. You
will possibly have much better qualified people available to you to appoint,
subject to the state party committee's approval. If they confirm the nomination
then that would be the ticket; if they rejected then the gubernatorial nominee
would have the sole authority to select, but would have to negotiate with the
committee if there was some highly controversial person that was being
proposed. That would be a check and balance and it is really a way to get the
party put back together again and heal the wounds of the primary. Perhaps your
leading opponent had been very strong in one region, and yourself in another.
You should have that opportunity, at least, as the gubernatorial nominee.
S: Was that ever discussed?
P: At the time the thinking was that it was better to have the public know the full
ticket when they voted for governor. But, that is an unreasonable constraint on
the gubernatorial candidate. He can announce it if he wants to, but, on the other
hand, he may want to wait until after he is nominated to make that decision. I
think there should be a joint candidacy that should pertain to the general election
but not to the primary.
The other change I would like to recommend to those who may in the future
readdress these areas is in regard to Article III. As speaker of the House, I was
the proponent of reducing the number of persons in the house from the 120
authorized in the constitution--80 to 120 are authorized--to 100. So, it would be
80 to 100. I tried to reduce the number to 100 by statute since the legislature
could do it by statute. Ralph Turlington led the fight to keep it at 120. But there
was enormous pressure to go to whatever the cap number is and there is almost
no way that the legislature will voluntarily reduce its numbers to less than the
maximum cap you set. You might as well just set a number. I think the House
could get along fine with 100; that would be an adequate number. But I am not
overwhelmingly concerned about the additional cost of the twenty additional
seats. In retrospect, I am convinced that the Senate, in which I also served, is
too small. If only about 25% of a legislative body are really the doers, shakers,
thinkers, policy initiators, and experts in particular subject areas, then a Senate of
forty members might only have ten Senators carrying this load. They are
overloaded. They cannot handle the work product coming from the House. A
larger body would provide more people who could become experts in areas that
the ten do not have time to get to. The Senate does not understand, therefore,
the sophisticated proposals coming from the House and various subject areas
where there are no specialists in the Senate. In the Senate there are people who
are overloaded and who have little time to try and master those areas. So, the
Senate tends to get out-gunned, not only because that body is more conservative
generally in this state but because the people who are talented are overloaded
regardless of their attitudes and views on the subjects. So a lot of decent
legislation never makes it through because of that overload. I think that a larger
body of about fifty would add a few more talented people to help carry the load.
S: Do you think ten more people would help that much?
P: Yes. If you could get three or four more talented people you would really provide
a great help to the small number of members who carry the load.
S: What was the idea behind setting it at forty?
P: It was regarded as a reform. The old senate of Florida was thirty-eight, if I recall
correctly. It got to forty-eight during the reapportionment battles just to
accommodate various incumbents and permit them to survive. And then the big
reform in constitutional revision was to reduce the number close to the original
one. But the state has grown so rapidly and so greatly, and in my judgement a
larger body is needed. I believe that a reasonable number is fifty. It would be a
lot better than what we have got. The tax article, now that the ten mill cap has
been reached in many areas of the state, has been amended to authorize a
county to charge an additional ten mills for municipal services. As I understand
the provision, you cannot consolidate city and county to have a total of twenty
mills. In Jacksonville we have created a county-city on a county-wide basis.
That has added some flexibility, but we may have to readdress those caps unless
other areas are opened up that would permit local governments to deal with the
urban problems around the state. So that will become a problem that we will not
long be able to resist.
S: Is it a continuing process?
P: Oh, yes. Constitutions that are highly statutory in detail always have to have
significant revision. Those of us who favored a federal model with framework
and basic constitutional rights and a Bill of Rights--Declaration of Rights type
provisions--lost. So, the secondary objective was to make the document as
flexible as possible so it can accommodate changes you cannot now foresee.
But in many areas, particularly in the tax article and some of the Local
Government provisions, we have not been able to do that.
S: Well, are you looking forward to serving on future committees?
P: By that time I probably will not be available to give them the benefit of hindsight.
S: Are you currently practicing law in Miami?
P: Yes. I hope I am around at that time, I am trying to make it to 2000 anyway.
There may be a constitutional convention called prior to that time if we get into a
big enough fix or if we have a big number five type of hurricane hit creating a
statewide crisis. It could be sooner than that. The legislature itself has great
flexibility in proposing constitutional amendments. We have a strong legislature
in this state and one of the greatest achievements of the 1968 revision was to
make it possible to have strong legislature with independent capacity.
S: Did you work toward passage of this document? Did you travel around the
P: Yes, I made many speeches on television, and radio. I was very active.
S: Thank you so much for the interview.
P: Thank you, I enjoyed it.