Jose Javier Rodriguez: ‘Nefarious’ petition signature measure dead on Senate floor

Republicans would need a 60% majority to pass it.

Despite a new proposed amendment raising the ballot requirements for citizen initiatives now moving in the committee process, Democratic leaders say that legislation will be dead in the Senate floor.

The proposal (SPB 7062) needs a three-fifths vote in the full Senate, where the 23-member-strong Republican caucus falls one vote short of that threshold. But that’s if the measure passes out of the committee process in time.

Senate Judiciary Committee Chair David Simmons says the bill’s only stop will be the Rules Committee. That measure originated in his committee and was approved on a 4-2 vote Wednesday, along party lines.

Citizen initiatives currently need, in addition to the statewide threshold, signatures from 8% of voters in half of the state’s congressional districts. The amendment would spread the 8% threshold across all districts, which committee Vice Chair José Javier Rodríguez says would give veto power to any one dissenting district.

Simmons, an Altamonte Springs Republican Senator, presented the proposed measure in committee and shared a different perspective with reporters:

“Everyone acknowledges that there are differences between certain areas of the state, and so rather than permit someone to aggregate and cause the petitions to be done from only one portion of the state, this does it in a way that every one of the congressional districts would have a better opportunity.”

Senate Minority Leader Audrey Gibson and Rodríguez, the committee’s two Democrats, cast the only dissenting votes Wednesday.

“Leader Gibson and I will assert with a high degree of confidence that this thing is dead on the Senate floor,” Rodríguez said. “The irony of the Legislature — trying to make themselves the only ones who can put anything on the ballot — putting something on the ballot to solidify the exclusivity of the Legislature being the one to have the power.”

However, Gibson had a more leveled response Wednesday after the Senate floor session. She told Florida Politics she will meet with her caucus about the initiative.

The proposed bill, submitted Friday, is the latest in a series of efforts the Republican-controlled Legislature has undertaken to reign in who can propose initiatives. Currently, Floridians’ avenues for amending the constitution are through the Legislature, citizen initiatives, the Constitution Revision Commission, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission or a constitutional convention.

“We collectively know that that bill is another chipping-away of the citizens’ right to at least attempt to change the constitution,” Gibson said. “It’s their access. If the Legislature doesn’t act, they have a way to directly petition and get something on the ballot themselves, like Amendment 4, for example.”

Legislation to remove the revision commission and other barriers to citizen initiatives are active in the Legislature. And while Republicans like Rep. Jamie Grant say it’s a non-partisan move, Democrats tie the efforts to initiatives for higher minimum wages, medicinal cannabis and others.

“This is the sixth week of Session. That’s maybe one of the last times that Judiciary is meeting, and we’re just seeing this thing pop out of nowhere. It seems nefarious to me,” Rodriguez said.

The Sunshine State currently has 27 congressional districts but will likely receive an additional one or two seats after reapportionment following this year’s Census.

Renzo Downey

Renzo Downey covers state government for Florida Politics. After graduating from Northwestern University in 2019, Renzo began his reporting career in the Lone Star State, covering state government for the Austin American-Statesman. Shoot Renzo an email at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter @RenzoDowney.


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.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch @PeterSchorschFL

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Drew Dixon, Roseanne Dunkelberger, A.G. Gancarski, Anne Geggis, Ryan Nicol, Jacob Ogles, Cole Pepper, Gray Rohrer, Jesse Scheckner, Christine Sexton, Drew Wilson, and Mike Wright.

Email: [email protected]
Twitter: @PeterSchorschFL
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

Sign up for Sunburn