Senate committee eyes contribution caps for citizen-led ballot initiatives
Ray Rodrigues. Image via Colin Hackley.

It's the latest Republican-led attempt to make it harder to amend the state's constitution.

A Senate committee Tuesday will consider a bill seeking to limit contributions to political committees sponsoring citizen-led constitutional amendments.

The Senate Committee on Ethics and Elections, which is meeting at 12:30 p.m., will hear Sen. Ray Rodrigues’ bill (SB 1890), which would cap contributions at $1,000 for “a political committee that is the sponsor of a constitutional amendment proposed by initiative.” Currently, no statewide limit exists on the amount that can be contributed to a political committee.

However, Rodrigues plans to offer an amendment that would set the contribution limits at $3,000, he previously told Florida Politics.

The proposal would put the specified political committees in line with the same contribution limitations put on state legislative candidates and county office candidates.

The bill would only apply limitations to constitutional amendments proposed by initiative, a method citizens can use to propose an amendment to the state’s constitution. The state requires petitions totaling 8% of the votes cast in the preceding presidential election in order for the proposal to be recognized.

Florida also has a signature distribution requirement, which requires signatures be collected from at least half, or 14, of the state’s 27 congressional districts.

Citizen-led initiatives are one of several ways constitutional amendments can be placed on the ballot in Florida. The Legislature is also able to place proposals on the ballot.

The legislation will likely garner opposition similar to that of previous efforts critics define as attempts to make it harder for citizens to propose ballot initiatives — the petition-gathering process can cost millions of dollars, with groups required to submit 891,589 signatures to get measures on the 2022 ballot.

Last year, then-Rep. Jamie Grant sponsored an unsuccessful proposal that would have added several provisions including raising the threshold of voter petitions to trigger language review, transparency measures requiring disclosure of out-of-state participation and shortening the amount of time groups have to gather petitions.

The bill would’ve also required groups pushing for a ballot initiative to pay for the signature verification process with local supervisors of elections offices.

Grant’s legislation received push-back, with critics arguing the legislation would make it difficult for groups to raise money to gather petitions, and ultimately hamper the potential of citizen-powered amendment initiatives.

And, Floridians have expressed disapproval for efforts to make it tougher to amend the state’s constitution.

In 2020, six amendments appeared on the ballot in Florida. Four were citizen initiated measures, of which two passed.

One of the failed initiatives, the “Voter Approval of Constitutional Amendments” or Amendment 4, would have required all proposed amendments or revisions to the Florida Constitution to be approved by voters in two elections, instead of one, in order to take effect. Voters shot down the proposal in November.

The citizen-driven amendments that passed in 2020 included increasing the state minimum wage to $15 by 2026 and providing stricter wording for voting eligibility.

The House version of the bill (HB 699) has cleared its first committee, the House Public Integrity and Elections Committee.

Kelly Hayes

Kelly Hayes studied journalism and political science at the University of Florida. Kelly was born and raised in Tampa Bay. A recent graduate, she enjoys government and legal reporting. She has experience covering the Florida Legislature as well as local government, and is a proud Alligator alum. You can reach Kelly at [email protected].


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