The Florida House is pushing ahead with a bill that would make it harder to amend the constitution through the citizen initiative process. Grassroots organizations fear the bill would spell the end for constitutional amendments pushed by anyone but millionaires and billionaires.
Jodi James is part of Floridians for Freedom’s effort to legalize recreational marijuana in Florida, and knows how difficult putting an amendment before voters can be. She fears the bill moving through the Legislature would make it much harder. An initiative like ours will never happen again, said James.
Campaigns would have to collect five times as many signatures to have the Supreme Court review their ballot language. It also would make it up to ten times more expensive to have signatures verified by election supervisors.
You will not be able to contemplate a citizens’ initiative in Florida unless you have really deep pockets and I’m talking in the neighborhood of $25 million, said James.
The bill would also require the Attorney General to ask the State Supreme Court if a proposed amendment would violate the US constitution. House sponsor James Grant says currently no such protection exists.
You could actually put a citizens’ initiative together to repeal the First Amendment, said Rep. Grant. Grant also rejected the idea the additional costs would benefit big-money campaigns. Instead, he argued it will protect the constitution from policy that should be left to the Legislature.
What we’re trying to do is strengthen a republic and mitigate the disastrous effects that we see from direct democracies when policy and fundamental policy questions are answered on a whim with marketing campaigns, put into the constitution almost in perpetuity, said Grant.
The House is still negotiating with the Senate to see what ultimately makes it in the final product.
The bill is expected to be brought before the full Senate and amended Friday.
March 5th, 2020 by Jake Stofan – Capitol News Service