TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – A controversial measure expected to make it harder for citizens’ initiatives to reach the ballot has landed on Gov. Ron DeSantis’ desk.
The proposal (HB 5) seeks a series of changes dealing with constitutional amendment initiatives, such as making it illegal to pay petition gatherers based on the number of petitions they collect.
Also, for example, it would require submission of information about petition gatherers, including their permanent and temporary addresses, and would require the gatherers to sign sworn statements that they will follow state laws and rules.
The bill also would require petitions to be turned into county supervisors of elections no more than 30 days after being signed by voters and includes penalties of up to $50 for each late submission. Fines could grow to $1,000 for any petition “willfully” not submitted on time.
The petition-gathering process plays a crucial role in placing citizens’ initiatives on the ballot.
Democrats argued that groups turn to amending the Constitution because the Legislature often ignores the wishes of voters on issues, as evidenced by ballot drives in recent years that broadly legalized medical marijuana and restored felons’ voting rights. Supporters of the bill say it would help combat fraud in the petition-gathering process.
Sen. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, argued during the legislative session that the changes were critical because the ballot-initiative process has been “hijacked” by out-of-state interests.
DeSantis will have until June 21 to sign, veto or allow the bill to become law without his signature.