Coalition of organizations urges Ron DeSantis to veto bill raising citizen initiative thresholds

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Opponents argue the legislation makes it harder to get an issue on the ballot.

A growing number of advocacy groups called on Gov. Ron DeSantis to veto a bill increasing barriers for proposed constitutional amendments to make the ballot.

A coalition of 13 organizations, led by the League of Women Voters of Florida, sent a letter to DeSantis. The groups asked for a veto of SB 1794.

“This proposal places undue burdens on the citizens of Florida,” the letter reads. “We ask you to please consider the ramifications of this legislation and the message it sends to those who seek change. Your veto of SB 1794 would signify that a citizens’ right to participate in direct democracy should never be up for debate.”

The League of Women Voters and Florida Conservation Voters both previously voiced opposition to the legislation.

In the newest letter, the League was joined by 1000 Friends of Florida, ACLU of Florida, Common Cause Florida, Florida AFL-CIO, LatinoJustice PRLDEF, NAACP Florida State Conference, Organize Florida, Progress Florida, Sierra Club Florida, SPLC Action Fund and The New Florida Majority.

The organizations describe the bill as an “eleventh hour” measure passed at the end of Session that restricts citizen access to the constitution. The bill raises the threshold for initiatives to trigger judicial review to 25% of total required signatures. Right now, the review happens at 10%.

It also requires those signatures come from half of the congressional districts in Florida, rather than one quarter, as the law currently requires.

It also prevents petition signatures from rolling over to the next ballot.

While lawmakers said the efforts in recent years to make it more difficult to amend Florida’s constitution is intended to limit special interests from rewriting the document, organizations opposed to the legislation call it an obstacle to democracy that makes it more expensive than ever to engage in policy.

“The sad truth is that because of the legislature’s efforts to restrict the citizen initiative process in the past, getting an initiative on the ballot has become a business,” the letter reads. “Citizen Initiative costs have been estimated to be $6.5M-$8M per issue. This provision, if signed into law, would increase those costs even more.”

The group also notes that of the 185 ballot measures placed before voters since 1969, 116 were put there by the Legislature, compared to just 38 amendments put on the ballot through the citizen initiative process.

“In the midst of a global health crisis, any limitation to a citizen’s right to direct democracy seems unjust,” the letter reads. “The disconnect felt between average citizens and their elected officials is often bridged by citizen initiatives. It is unwise to enact legislation that limits that power.”

Jacob Ogles

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 [email protected].


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