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Will 2020 bring another long ballot of constitutional amendments?

Dozens of measures are aiming for the ballot.

A lengthy ballot filled with statewide constitutional amendments made for a tedious voting experience in 2018. The question now is, what of 2020?

No surprise: There may once again be a veritable menu of issues for voters to consider.

Amendments to the Florida Constitution must be approved by voters but can be placed on the ballot by petition (the ‘citizen initiative’) or by lawmakers.

Not every proposal will make it; in fact, it’s possible most won’t. Some groups have been in active signature gathering for years. Other active initiatives are essentially dormant, such as the currently oldest proposed amendment, for “single payer health care,” filed in 1995.

Each must get a number of valid signatures greater than 8 percent of the electorate in the last presidential election (now 766,320 signatures). Alternatively, it takes a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to put an item on the ballot.

But with forces pushing dozens of issues in one channel or the other, there’s potential for the longest lineup of amendments ever to land in front of voters come 2020.

So what’s on tap this cycle?

— Legislative resolutions —

Single-subject limits

This could impact the way issues go before voters in the future. After bundled amendments irritated voters in ’18, lawmakers want a single-issue requirement for constitutional amendments. If passed, voters will never decide on an oil drilling and vaping ban at the same time, for example. The proposal has cleared committees in both chambers. (SJR 74) (HJR 53)

Elected Secretary of State

Not since Katherine Harris left office has Florida had an elected Secretary of State. But Sen. Aaron Bean wants a return to having that office elected and part of the Cabinet. So far, the resolution lacks a House companion. (SJR 118)

Raising passage threshold

It now takes a 60-percent majority for voters to amend the Constitution, but should it require a two-thirds majority (or 66⅔ percent)? A proposal from Sen. Dennis Baxley would move the threshold higher for amendments, but like the 60-percent requirement, it only needs to meet the current threshold to be passed itself. The Senate Ethics Committee considers the item this week. (SJR 232) (HJR 57)

Public financing requirement repeal

If this amendment gets passed, it will repeal the part of the constitution that requires the availability of public financing of campaigns of statewide candidates who agree to campaign spending limits. The matter has already seen favorable reports from one committee in the House and Senate. (SJR 270) (HJR 613)

School Board term limits

This hotly contested measure could impose term limits on school board members in Florida’s 67 county school districts. Details about the length of tenure and local control have stirred debate in committee thus far. But it’s passed through one Senate committee and two in the House. (SJR 274) (HJR 229)

Medicaid expansion

Florida leaders won’t allow a Medicaid expansion, but Sen. Annette Taddeo says: Let voters decide. If passed, this would allow coverage to those younger than 65 or with income under 138 percent of the federal poverty line. But the proposal has yet to see a committee vote. (SJR 284) (HJR 1109)

Portability extension

This proposal by Sen. Jeff Brandes could extend the portability period during which the accrued benefit from specified limitations on homestead property tax assessments may be transferred from a prior homestead to a new homestead. So far, the effort has gotten through its first Senate committee but seen no movement in the House. (SJR 326) (HJR 1389)

Homestead increase prohibition

Should those on fixed incomes fear school tax hikes? This would put a prohibition on increasing the assessed value for homestead properties for school levies if the title is held by someone 65 or older and if they have held such title and maintained permanent residence for at least 25 years. (SJR 344) (HJR 317)

Eliminating the CRC

Bundled amendments and controversial ballot proposals soured many on the work product of Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission. Is it time to just get rid of it? The proposal has already moved favorably through two committees of each chamber of the Legislature. (SJR 362) (HJR 249)

Elected Education Commissioner

Like Secretary of State, Florida once elected a Commissioner of Education. Now, the post gets appointed by the Governor. Sen. Janet Cruz would like to return to voting a Cabinet member in. The measure has been filed in the House and Senate but it has not moved thus far. (SJR 422) (HJR 1309)

Single-subject rule for tax commission

Similar to the effort to stop bundled amendments, this proposal from Sen. Jose Javier Rodriguez would require constitutional amendments proposed by the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission be limited to a single subject. The item sailed through two committees in the Senate. (SJR 690)

Surviving spouse exemption

Certain veterans with combat-related disabilities enjoy a homestead tax discount, but when they die the exemption goes with them. If passed, this proposal would extend any exemption to the veteran’s surviving spouse until a property gets sold or the widowed individual remarries. (SJR 886) (HJR 717)

Recreational marijuana

Lawmakers have cleared the way to let people smoke cannabis as medicine, but what about for fun? This measure from Sen. Randolph Bracy would legalize marijuana for adults. But it has yet to move in the Senate and has no House companion. (SJR 1298)

Legislative by initiative

This proposal would allow legislation, as opposed to constitutional amendments, to be implemented through statewide votes. But so far, the idea hasn’t moved in the Legislature. (SJR 1398) (HJR 285)

Legislative pre-emption

For those tired of ballot supremacy, this change would require a supermajority vote of each chamber of the Legislature to enact a general law pre-empting a subject of legislation to the state. But legislators haven’t been quick to move the measure through committee. (SJR 1698) (HJR 1273)

— Ballot Petitions —

DRIVE

Want to pay off driving fines with volunteer hours? This ballot initiative would let all drivers complete community service in lieu of paying fines. The measure is sponsored by Drivers Ready to Improve, Vote and Empower, a political committee launched in 2015. but the group to date has only raised about $1,000. (19-02)

Open primaries

Florida right now closes party primaries to registered voters within the particular parties. This petition-driven effort would allow all registered voters to vote in primary elections in Florida. The group Florida Fair and Open Primaries wants to measure. Since the group started raising money in May, it raised about $2,700. (18-07)

Vote on tolls

If passed, this proposed amendment would require all tolls to be approved by voters before going into effect. DRIVE is also behind this measure, but in almost four years it still hasn’t made significant progress gathering signatures. (15-07)

Red-light camera ban

For voters who hate red light and speeding cameras, this effort would require all traffic citations to be issued without the use of those recording devices. It’s another DRIVE-backed measure, this one launched in 2016. (16-04)

Closing write-in loophole

For decades, voters have grown angry when write-in candidates closed primaries that could have been opened to all voters. The measure would allow all voters to vote in primary elections for the Legislature, Governor and Cabinet. All Voters Vote, the group that started efforts in March to get this amendment on the ballot, raised $600,000 since November. (19-07)

Congressional write-in loophole

Another All Voters Vote initiative in the same vein, this would let all voters vote in primary elections for U.S. House and Senate. Closing the loophole hasn’t been a priority for either party, especially among the elected official who prevail under the current rules. (19-06)

Citizenship requirement

This would ensconce in Florida’s constitution that only U.S. citizens may register to vote in the state of Florida. Florida Citizen Voters, a group formed by conservative activist John Loudon in November, has rapidly raised nearly $1.1 million. (18-14)

Acknowledgement of God

This measure would put in place a Pledge of Acknowledgement in Florida schools. The 22-word recitation formally recognizes the role of Almighty God and “divine providence in America’s founding.” The Pledge of Acknowledgement political committee opened in July but has yet to raise a dollar. The group does list one petition already turned into the state. (18-15)

Marijuana for mental health

Medical cannabis can be prescribed in Florida for certain “debilitating conditions.” This would expand that definition to include mental health disorders like bipolar disorder, panic disorder, anorexia and opioid addiction. Peaceful Minds for Medical Marijuana has already gathered 150 valid signatures and raised over $4,800 for the effort. (18-02)

Universal background checks

If the Florida Legislature doesn’t take action this year on implementing universal background checks, voters may act on their own. Floridians For Universal Background Checks since June has raised $72,000. (19-03)

Florida faith amendment

If passed, this would replace Florida’s constitutional “religious freedom” language with an affirmation of the free exercise of faith and an open acknowledgment of a “fundamental foundation of society and government” provided by the Bible and Christianity. FloridaFaithAmendment.com started the effort to get this on the ballot in July 2013 without raising any money or signatures. (13-03)

Solar choice

This would stop governments and utility providers from imposing any barriers to local solar electricity, including regulations, unfavorable rates or unfair terms of service. But it’s been a rough road to the light here. Floridians for Solar Choice has spent nearly $1.7 million on this cause and previously gathered more than 291,000 valid signatures that have since expired. But a new effort is underway and the committee already has 80 petitions submitted. (14-02)

Grow Your Own

This would let medical marijuana patients grow their own cannabis plants (up to nine of them) for personal use. Peaceful Minds for Medical Marijuana is also behind this item and has 249 valid petitions already submitted. (18-05)

Minimum wage increase

This would constitutionally require that the Florida minimum wage exceed $10 per hour. As of Jan. 1, the wage jumped to $8.46 an hour. The League of Voters, Extraordinaire raised about $1,100 since launching in 2011. This petition has been in the works since 2015. (15-09)

Offender re-entry

This would establish a standardized offender re-entry program of supervised release for all qualifying offenders who served minimum sentence requirements and demonstrated an ability to live lawful, productive lives in society. No sex offenders or death row inmates will be eligible. Floridians for Redeemable People has yet to raise dollars or petitions yet. (19-04)

Assault weapons ban

It’s never moved anywhere in the Legislature, even after the Pulse and Parkland shootings. But voters could approve a ban on possession of certain assault weapons. Ban Assault Weapons Now launched its effort in January and boasts 245 signed petitions so far. The organization started raising money last March and has taken in about $651,000 thus far. (19-01)

Medicaid coverage

Voters may get the chance to decide on extending Medicaid to low-income Floridians. Florida Decides Healthcare has been gathering petitions since December and already turned in 4,506 valid ones. The only financial activity reported by the groups includes nearly $343,000 in in-kind donations since the start of 2019. (18-16)

Fight for $15

This goes a step beyond pushing the minimum wage above $10 an hour and would set a gradual increase to get Florida’s minimum wage to $15 by the start of the 2026 fiscal year. Florida For A Fair Wage, led by Orlando attorney John Morgan, has turned in 88,164 valid petitions since launching its effort in January 2018. The group has raised upward of $606,000 for the initiative. (18-01)

Regulate marijuana like alcohol

Sensible Florida wants to see “adult-use” marijuana regulated similar to alcohol, and this measure would set age and licensing restrictions. The group has already submitted 57,555 valid petitions to get this on the ballot since launching its effort in 2016. More than $128,000 in cash contributions has been raised since the group started reporting finances in July 2015. (16-02)

Keep constitution clean

A voter-driven effort to limit excessive voter-driven efforts? Keep Our Constitution Clean would impose a 2/3 requirement to amend Florida’s constitution. Keep Our Constitution Clean launched the effort just this month, but the committee formed last year. Lobbyist Stephen Craig Emmanuel told Florida Politics then that his clients’ goal was to ensure the state constitution is “not cluttered by things that should be in state statute,” mentioning the infamous ‘pregnant pigs’ amendment. (19-05)

Recreational marijuana

The Legislature may not put the measure on the ballot, but Floridians for Freedom might. The group has been trying to get ‘weed for fun’ on the ballot since August 2015, and had 8,476 petitions expire in its initial attempt, but it has 22,378 still-good signatures into the state now. More than $22,000 has come into the committee since it formed in 2015. (15-20)

Energy choice

The measure would grant customers of investor-owned utilities the right to choose their electricity provider and to generate and sell electricity. It would also limit investor-owned utilities to construction, operation, and repair of electrical transmission and distribution systems. There are already 108,873 valid signatures submitted with the state, more than enough to merit judicial review, and Citizens for Energy Choices has already raised $1.8 million since opening its committee accounts in September. (18-10)

Single-payer health care

A constitutional amendment decades in the making, this would create universal health care in Florida. If, that is, it ever makes the ballot. The effort remains active 23½ years after its 1995 launch and the expiration of nearly 23,000 past petitions. The last reported contributions came into the Floridians for Health Security committee in 2005. (95-01)

Personhood amendment

A pro-life measure, this amendment would guarantee constitutional rights to the unborn at all stages of development. The Leesburg-based Personhood Florida committee launched the petition effort in December 2013. It opened its committee account in 2009 but hasn’t reported any contributions in six years. (13-06)

Top-two primary

This would dispense with party primaries in state elections and put all candidates on an initial ballot together. The top two would then advance to the general election. Florida Fair and Open Primaries also supports this effort, launched last June. (18-06)

Internet voting

This would allow online voting and online petitioning. Florida for Change started this effort in September, but there’s been no financial or petition activity yet. (18-08)

Stop the killing

How should the Second Amendment be applied? This amendment would define a “well-regulated militia” as a term that only included the Florida National Guard and stopped others from possessing military-style weapons. The Stop The Killing committee began efforts on this measure last April but to date has only raised about $200. (18-03)

Written By

Jacob Ogles has covered politics in Florida since 2000 for regional outlets including SRQ Magazine in Sarasota, The News-Press in Fort Myers and The Daily Commercial in Leesburg. His work has appeared nationally in The Advocate, Wired and other publications. Events like SRQ’s Where The Votes Are workshops made Ogles one of Southwest Florida’s most respected political analysts, and outlets like WWSB ABC 7 and WSRQ Sarasota have featured his insights. He can be reached at jacobogles@hotmail.com.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

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Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
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