Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill making it more difficult for voters to propose amendments to the state constitution.
Last month, Common Cause Florida and 12 other organizations asked Gov. DeSantis to veto the bill, calling it “another step towards stripping our constitution from the people and placing it into the hands of corporations, billionaires, and dark money. In the midst of a global health crisis, any limitation to a citizen’s right to direct democracy seems unjust. 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. Ultimately this proposal places undue burdens on the citizens of Florida.” Read the full letter here.
Statement of Common Cause Florida Executive Director Anjenys Gonzalez-Eilert
Our government is supposed to be ‘of the people, by the people, for the people’ — but in the middle of a public health emergency, our government is now making it harder for ‘the people’ to have their voices heard.
The changes enacted last year in HB5 were bad enough: voters shouldn’t have to pay $6.5 million to $8 million to hire professional signature gatherers to get a constitutional amendment on the ballot. But this new law makes it even harder and more expensive for Florida’s citizens to amend our Florida constitution.
In the past 50 years, there have been only 38 citizen initiative amendments on the ballot – while the Legislature sent 116 proposed amendments to the voters. More than 70% of the citizen initiative amendments passed, usually by high margins. Voters have led the way on: Fair Districts, in 2010; restoring voting rights, in 2018; water and land conservation, in 2014; and medical cannabis, in 2016. These were, obviously, all areas where people didn’t feel their voices were being heard by the Florida Legislature and sought a constitutional amendment by citizens’ initiative.
It is a step in the wrong direction, taken at the wrong time. Right now, Floridians need to have confidence that our government hears us and cares about us. Unfortunately, this bill signed by Gov DeSantis sends exactly the opposite message.