Florida Lawmakers Want To Make It Harder To Amend The State Constitution

Apr 10, 2019

Credit Nick Evans / WFSU News

The Florida Legislature wants to make it more difficult to amend the state Constitution. 

Leading the efforts is a proposal to ask voters to abolish Florida’s Constitutional Revision Commission. It would appear on the 2020 ballot as an amendment to the constitution.

“The difference between the CRC Process and what you do here is amazing," says the AFL-CIO lobbyist Rich Templin. "The CRC establishes its on rules, which were sketchy at best and then refused to follow them. There were very few staff analysis that were done in a timely fashion and when there were they had glaring errors, there were very few experts brought in on various pieces."

However, Sen. Tom Lee (R-Brandon) disagrees; he says the fact that the committee operates different allows the CRC to not become misguided.

“One of the things that the CRC has as an advantage over the legislature is that they are not compromised by the fundraising, they’re not compromised by the politics, they were very, very difficult to lobby,” said Lee. 

Lee was a member of the last revision commission which was heavily criticized for being overly political by both Republicans and Democrats. 

“Remember the appointees were appointed by political figures," says Templin. "What we saw time and time again was that the motions taken by a lot of those appointees identically matched the goals and aspirations of the people doing the appointing."

In addition, lawmakers are considering the process for how citizen-driven changes are added to the document.

A measure by Sen. David Simmons (R-Longwood) places restrictions on petition-gathering efforts and prohibits gatherers from being paid. It also requires an analysis of the proposal’s economic impact. A separate plan by fellow Sen. Dennis Baxley (R-Ocala) would move the amendment approval threshold to a 2/3rds vote.

That’s upsetting to voting rights advocates. 

“The only logical outcome is making it more difficult for citizens to get to the threshold. If you make it more difficult then more of the citizen’s initiatives will fail, so it’s on its face, limiting citizen’s initiatives,” says League of Women Voters of Florida Vice President Cecile Scoon.

The bill to raise the percentage of voters to approve an amendment is currently in the Senate Judiciary.