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Proposals would make it harder to change Florida Constitution

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Sen. Dennis Baxley, R-Ocala, introduced a measure Feb. 3 that would make it harder for voters to change the Florida Constitution.

The proposal (SJR 866) is identical to a measure (HJR 321) filed last month by Rep. Rick Roth, R-Loxahatchee, that would require ballot measures to receive the support of two-thirds of voters before they could go into the constitution.

That would be tougher than the current requirement that 60 percent of voters need to sign off on constitutional amendments. 

Rubin Askew, who served as governor from 1971 to 1979, was the first to use the initiative process after the constitution was modernized in 1968. Askew was frustrated with legislative inaction on financial disclosure requirements.

“They wouldn’t do it, so I went out on the stump," Askew said.

In 2002, lawmakers asked voters to raise the approval threshold to 60 percent, Damien Filer, political director of Progress Florida, ran the class size campaign. 

"In fact, they made it harder to than anywhere else in the United States to amend the constitution. We're the only state in the country that has a 60 percent plus one threshold," Filer said. 

Filer said there is nothing easy about amending the constitution. Indeed, most proposals never make it to a vote.

Since nearly a million more people voted in November than four years ago, the number of required petitions will increase by just over 75,000 -- making getting on the ballot all the more difficult and costly.

If the higher standard had been used in the past, a 2016 measure to broadly legalize medical marijuana still would have been approved.

That measure received 71.3 percent of the vote.

However, a 2012 amendment giving a homestead property tax exemption to the surviving spouses of military veterans and first responders would have failed.

That measure received 62 percent support.

 

The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.