Florida House committee approves two bills making it harder to amend the constitution

Published: Mar. 29, 2021 at 5:44 PM EDT
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GAINESVILLE, Fla. (CAP NEWS/WCJB) - A House committee approved a one two punch to the citizen initiative process Monday, making it more difficult to amend the state constitution.

Republicans contend it’s too easy to change the state’s founding document, but voter groups argue it’s just the opposite.

Republican lawmakers believe too much policy is making its way into the state constitution.

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“It should not be easier to put an amendment in our constitution than it is to pass the same law through the legislative process,” said Representative Rick Roth.

Roth wants to raise the current 60 percent approval threshold for amendments to pass to a 66 and 2/3′s percent supermajority.

It would apply to amendments put on the ballot through citizen initiatives and those put on the ballot by the Legislature.

“It’s better to limit ourselves trying to pass good amendments in a time when we’re more in danger from bad amendments,” said Roth.

Voters groups argue the proposed bar is too high.

“What this bill does is put the power of the initiative process squarely in the hands of a super minority of voters, which I don’t think is what anyone thinks of when they think about democracy,” said Jonathan Webber with the Florida Conservation Voters.

Another bill would cap contributions to citizen initiative campaigns at $3,000 during the signature gathering phase.

“It makes sure that we’re not overly influenced by those that have the wherewithal to do that, millionaires, billionaires and those outside our state,” said House sponsor Representative Bobby Payne.

The contribution limit legislation is being called the anti-John Morgan bill.

Morgan bankrolled the medical marijuana amendment and the minimum wage amendment.

But Ida Eskamani with Florida Rising argued the Legislature’s attempts at restricting the citizen initiative process is the blame for the big-money donors.

“The issue here is not that we have people like John Morgan. The issue is that the Legislature has made the ballot initiative process so expensive that we have to go find donors to make it work,” said Eskamani.

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Both proposals were approved along party lines and have one more committee stop before reaching the House floor.

Voters will have the final say on whether to raise the threshold for passing constitutional amendments, but it would only take the current 60 percent voter approval to raise the bar.

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