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As 'Pass It Twice' Ballot Initiative Gains Steam, Florida Looks To Nevada

A paper with the word Vote and two boxes that say Yes or No. The Yes box has a marking in it.
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Backers of a state constitutional amendment proposal are trying to make it harder for the document to be changed. The plan has more than half the required signatures to go before voters next year and is in the middle of a state budget review.

The sponsors are called, Keep Our Constitution Clean. 

"If you want to amend the constitution to the state of Florida you have to get it on the ballot first get it passed through the normal process, and then it goes on the ballot again," says the group's Jason Zimmerman. 

He believes the state constitution should rarely be changed.

"By doing pass it twice we think we can reduce the amount of you know whimsical constitutional amendments," said Zimmerman.

He wouldn’t specify which amendment he believes are “whimsical” but he points to the overall number of amendments that have been added to Florida’s governing document since the 1960s.

"There have been more than 140 constitutional amendments," explains Zimmerman. The United States Constitution which has been around since the 1700s has been amended 27 times."

Zimmerman says the goal is to prevent citizens from legislating through constitutional amendments. But sponsors of ballot initiatives in the past have said they put the proposals forward because the legislature drags its feet on certain issues.

The measure has 407 thousand signatures and is now up for review by state financial estimators to project the cost of the constitutional change. State estimator Jesse Atkinson is looking to Nevada. 

"Nevada is the only state we were able to find that has a double election requirement for constitutional amendments," says Atkinson.

Enter Paul Boger a senior political reporter at KUNR Public Radio in Reno, Nevada. He says Nevada has multiple ways to amend its constitution. They can have a constitutional convention, citizens initiative or the legislature can put a question on a ballot.

"In the last two, both of those processes have to be voted on the voters of Nevada at least twice or have to be voted on twice before it can take effect," explains Boger.

He says it isn’t often that an initiative passes one election and not the other, but it has happened.

"There was this energy choice initiative that received 72% of the vote in 2016. It was really popular, it would have opened up the state's energy market for more competition or at least that’s the way it was built," says Boger.

The second time around it didn’t have the same luck.

"A lot of voters realized that may not be something they want. That there would have been more questions. That there would have been maybe an increase in energy cost associated with opening up the market," explains Boger. "They turned around and for the first time in about two decades voted down the second question."

Boger says there was also a large media campaign ran by the opposition to the bill which allowed for people to see more viewpoints. He adds that although it does take two election cycles to get an amendment passed in Nevada, it correlates with how the state government works.

"That’s kind of the nature in Nevada politics in general, it moves very slowly here. We are a small state, Nevada is a small state population-wise. And for the last 150 years, we’ve had a biennial legislature," explains Boger.

Florida moves a lot quicker. Legislators meet annually and amendments are voted on once.

If the Keep Our Constitution Clean group collects 776,200 signatures voters could have the choice to change the current amendment process to a pass it twice system. That would impact both legislative ballot amendments, citizen-initiatives and those proposed by the Florida Constitution Revision Commission and Tax and Budget Reform Commission that meets once every twenty years.

Blaise Gainey is a State Government Reporter for WFSU News. Blaise hails from Windermere, Florida. He graduated from The School of Journalism at the Florida A&M University. He formerly worked for The Florida Channel, WTXL-TV, and before graduating interned with WFSU News. He is excited to return to the newsroom. In his spare time he enjoys watching sports, Netflix, outdoor activities and anything involving his daughter.