Ballot initiative reform bill ready for final Senate panel
Travis Hutson will be central to Special Session.

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A strike-all amendment softens the bill.

A measure making it more difficult to put citizens’ initiatives on the November ballot (SB 1794) is moving to its final committee after the Senate Judiciary Committee advanced the bill Tuesday.

Sen. Travis Hutson is sponsoring the legislation. It would raise the threshold to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review of the ballot language. The measure would increase the potential cost to place a measure on the ballot.

But Tuesday’s hearing saw the adoption of a strike-all amendment from Hutson that would make alterations to those provisions — and others — in Hutson’s bill.

Neither version of the bill changes the number of petition signatures needed to make the ballot. But the original measure raised the review threshold to trigger judicial review of ballot language from 10% of the petitions gathered to 50%.

Tuesday’s strike-all amendment calls for a smaller increase, from 10% of petitions gathered to 33%.

As for the cost increase, Hutson’s original language required a supervisor to charge the actual cost for verifying signature. Those costs are currently placed at 10 cents per signature.

Costs can vary depending on how difficult it is to verify those signatures. Hutson’s strike all amendment would still raise costs, but would cap the price at $1 per signature.

Senate Democratic Leader Audrey Gibson and Democratic Sen. José Javier Rodríguez offered several amendments, all of which were deemed unfriendly and ultimately failed.

Rodríguez also attempted to amend the measure at its previous stop before the Senate Ethics and Elections Committee.

Among the amendments offered by Rodríguez Tuesday was a provision that would delay the effects of the law until the 2022 election. Another proposed amendment would review the increase in the Supreme Court review threshold.

Rep. Jamie Grant is behind the House companion measure (HB 7037).

Critics such as Rodríguez say the measures are not solving any existing problem and they will shut off the ballot amendment process by making it more difficult for citizens’ initiatives to gain approval.

Kara Gross, the legislative director of the ACLU of Florida, is among those critics. She released a statement Tuesday after the committee’s vote.

“The intent of this bill is crystal clear: prevent the public from voting on amendments that will improve the lives of everyday Floridians,” Gross said.

“The People restored the right to vote through using the citizen initiative process; the People ensured that sick individuals would have access to medical marijuana through the citizen initiative process; the People preserved the state’s natural water and land resources through the citizen initiative process, and now the People are trying to pass an amendment that would raise the minimum wage so that workers can put food on their table and a roof over their head. But certain lawmakers want to deprive us of these daily dignities by erecting insurmountable roadblocks in the citizen initiative process. We the People will not be silenced.

Hutson argues it provides more transparency to the citizen ballot initiative process. Grant has said he thinks it should be “really hard to amend the constitution.”

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Material from Florida Politics’ Sarah Mueller was used in this report

Ryan Nicol

Ryan Nicol covers news out of South Florida for Florida Politics. Ryan is a native Floridian who attended undergrad at Nova Southeastern University before moving on to law school at Florida State. After graduating with a law degree he moved into the news industry, working in TV News as a writer and producer, along with some freelance writing work. If you'd like to contact him, send an email to [email protected]


One comment

  • Palmer Tom

    February 12, 2020 at 8:30 am

    It is already hard to amend the Florid constitution. You have to gather lots of signatures and you have to win the approval of more than 60 percent of those voting on that measure. Then you have to fight with the Florida Legislature for years to implement the amendment.

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