House remains bullish on citizen ballot initiative restrictions
Florida constitution.

Florida Constitution
Critics worry the proposals will gut the citizen process.

The House cued for a floor vote a measure that could make it tougher to get Constitutional amendments on the ballot.

HJR 7093, filed by Rep. Bob Rommel, would require petition collectors to get signatures from 8% of voters in the last Presidential election from all Congressional districts.

The bill proposes an amendment to the State Constitution to increase petition thresholds.

Rommel noted that the bill would make it “much more fair” than the current system, a contention disputed by Democrats. Even one district not demonstrating support, he said, should be a dealbreaker.

“The threshold is not that big … if we can’t get 8%,” Rommel said, it shouldn’t be in the Constitution.

Rep. Anna Eskamani wondered whether there was even a problem to address. Rommel contended that currently people are locked out of the ballot initiative process if they live in an area that might not be targeted for signatures.

Eskamani, an Orlando-area Democrat, said the effect of the bill would be “ballot initiatives for billionaires,” with dark money and big donors the only ways to compete given the proposed restrictions.

Rommel also fretted about a lack of oversight for citizens initiatives comparable to the halcyon vetting process of legislative committees.

To pass, the bill will need 60% of the vote in the House and Senate, which could be a heavy lift given that version (SB 7062) appears to have died.

Today, the number is one-half, or 14 of the state’s 27 Congressional districts, allowing petition collectors to concentrate efforts in population-rich metropolitan areas.

This apparent glitch in the system has allowed people to sidestep the legislative preferences of their duly elected leaders on a number of fronts.

On recent issues ranging from medical marijuana to restoring the right to vote to reformed felons, voters were willing to go farther than Tallahassee wanted by forcing ballot initiatives

Other bills remain in play also.

Another effort (HB 7037/SB 1794) includes provisions shortening how long petition signatures would remain valid and raising the threshold for petitions to trigger a Florida Supreme Court review.

Under that legislation, the Financial Impact Estimating Conference would no longer be charged with giving the impact on local and state economies of any ballot item. Thus, findings such as “legal pot good for state economy” would be outside of scope, removing a potential argument for a given future ballot initiative.

The Attorney General would be given new latitude to reject an initiative as “facially invalid under the U.S. Constitution.”

Petition circulators, meanwhile, could have their legitimacy challenged by anyone.

The House version is still on the Special Order calendar, having been postponed earlier Friday.

The Senate version is in third reading, alive and well, and is the preferred vehicle from that chamber.

Rommel said his bill is necessary to protect “liberties” even if HB 7037 passes.

Opponents say the legislation makes it harder for grassroots organizations to raise funds and to staff a statewide operation.

Clearing judicial review is a key funding hurdle for citizen initiative backers. Getting ballot language approved through that process, the strategy goes, gives donors confidence to invest in the initiative.


Florida Politics’ Renzo Downey contributed to this post.

A.G. Gancarski

A.G. Gancarski has written for since 2014. He is based in Northeast Florida. He can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter: @AGGancarski


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