Senate bill would make constitution changes harder
Fifth, First and Second Amendments of the United States Constitution
Measure would require 75% voter approval to pass amendments
TALLAHASSEE – A Senate panel on Tuesday backed a proposal that would require approval from two-thirds of voters for ballot measures changing the Florida Constitution to pass.
The Senate Ethics and Elections Committee, headed by Ocala’s Dennis Baxley, voted 5-3 to approve the proposal (SJR 1238), sponsored by Sen. Ana Maria Rodriguez, R-Doral. It would make it harder to amend the Constitution because ballot measures now can be approved with a 60 percent vote.
If passed, the measure would go before voters in November 2022. Increasing the threshold for amending the Constitution requires a constitutional amendment.
Baxley said lawmakers would give voters the choice.
“We’re not putting this in the Constitution,” Baxley said. “The voters will vote as to whether they want to make this change.”
But Sen. Randolph Bracy, an Ocoee Democrat who serves on the committee, expressed outrage, telling supporters of the proposal that it is a “direct result of constitutional amendments passing that you all don’t like.”
“It is a spit in the face to every voting member of the public,” Bracy said. “And I think we should be ashamed for even putting something like this forward.”
The Republican-controlled Legislature, backed by groups such as the Florida Chamber of Commerce, have moved forward in recent years with a series of changes to make it harder to amend the Constitution.
Last year, lawmakers passed a measure that included raising the number of petition signatures needed to spur Supreme Court reviews of citizens’ initiatives. Such initiatives need the Supreme Court to sign off on ballot wording before they can move forward.
Voters in 2006 approved a measure that required constitutional amendments to receive 60 percent support to pass, up from the previous majority. That proposal was put on the 2006 ballot by the Legislature.
Supporters of making it harder to change the Constitution argue, in part, that it should be a document that serves as a foundation of government and not a battleground for policy issues better resolved by the Legislature.
Amendments that have passed in recent years have dealt with a wide range of issues, including increasing the state’s minimum wage, restoring voting rights to felons, legalizing medical marijuana, providing money for land and water conservation and banning greyhound racing.
“The Constitution should be a defining document of the relationship between a people and their government,” Baxley said. “It should not be all this policy and budget stuff.”