Constitution reform bill moves forward

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Posted April 2, 2021 | News Service of Florida

A proposal that would make it harder to change the Florida Constitution was backed along party lines Monday by a House committee, with opponents saying it’s the latest attempt to make it more difficult to pass already expensive and time-consuming ballot initiatives.

The Republican-controlled House Public Integrity & Elections Committee approved the proposal (HJR 61), which would ask voters in 2022 to increase the percentage of votes needed to pass future constitutional amendments.

“If your political views support changing laws by constitutional amendment without debate, then I hope you will at least agree that this process should only be used as intended, as a safety valve and not for every policy in any budget decision,” said Rep. Rick Roth, a West Palm Beach Republican who is sponsoring the proposal.

The measure would require support from two-thirds of voters to pass constitutional amendments. Currently, constitutional amendments can pass with 60 percent of the vote. Before the meeting, House Minority Co-leader Evan Jenne, D-Dania Beach, suggested the proposal was driven by initiatives that have passed in recent years to broadly legalize medical marijuana and raise the minimum wage.

“You’re seeing a lot of policies that would never see the light of day here in Tallahassee become the will of the people and be enshrined in our Constitution,” Jenne said. “So, I think this is a direct pushback on some of that.”

But Rep. Blaise Ingoglia, R-Spring Hill, said it should be difficult to change the state Constitution.

“From what I’ve seen over the years is that we’ve substituted legislating for putting things on the ballot,” Ingoglia said. “And I just think that’s the wrong thing to do.”

An identical Senate proposal (SJR 1238) has cleared one committee and awaits a hearing before the Rules Committee. If passed by the Legislature, the proposal would require approval from voters in 2022 because it would change the Constitution.

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