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Federal judge could soon rule on $30K initiative contribution limit

A gavel in a courtroom.
A gavel in a courtroom. (Pexels)

TALLAHASSEE – Several dozen proposed amendments in Florida have been filed for the 2022 ballot, but new restrictions on contributions for initiatives are expected to slow any efforts to amend the state constitution.

A federal judge could rule as early as Thursday on whether the new $30,000 contribution limit is legal.

Florida lawmakers enacted a $3,000 per person limit on contributions to petition gathering efforts.

Republican Senate sponsor Ray Rodrigues said the intent is to keep them citizens’ initiatives.

“The concern I have is that you have out-of-state billionaires who are coming in and putting in referendums and amending the Florida Constitution,” said Rodrigues.

Many in the state Capitol believe the new law should have been named for controversial trial lawyer John Morgan. That’s because Morgan successfully bankrolled and passed a medical marijuana and minimum wage amendment.

“This is a direct attack on Democracy,” said Morgan.

Morgan said he believes the legislation is all about who has got the power.

“We don’t want people to have the power. We want special interests to have the power, so we can get elected over and over and over and over again,” said Morgan.

Federal lawsuits challenging the contribution cap raise free speech issues.

In its brief, the ACLU argues the cap will make it impossible to raise the money to get on the ballot.

“An initiative simply won’t be able to get its signatures under this law,” said ACLU attorney Nicholas Warren.

But Rodrigues believes the change will survive federal scrutiny because there are no limits on contributions once a proposal has gotten on the ballot.

“Free speech exists. It exists when it actually becomes a referendum. While it’s an initiative with just petitions being gathered, we don’t see that as a free speech issue,” said Rodrigues.

A federal judge will hear two motions Thursday: The ACLU’s request to put the law on hold while it moves forward, and the state’s motion to dismiss.

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