TALLAHASSEE, FL – The Senate Judiciary Committee today voted to pass Senate Bill 1794, which would undermine the ability of citizens to directly participate in the democratic process through a ballot initiative and further complicate Florida’s strict constitutional amendment process.
SB 1794 shortens the time period signed petitions are valid and drastically increases the number of petitions necessary for Supreme Court review, which would make fundraising for everyday Floridians nearly impossible. The bill also increases the costs for signature verification as much as a ten-fold and allows the Florida Legislature to add potentially misleading language regarding fiscal impacts of the amendment on the ballot.
The companion House version of this bill, HB 7037, has already passed two committees.
Kara Gross, legislative director of the ACLU of Florida, responded to today’s hearing with the following:
“Floridians have a constitutional right to amend their Constitution, and yet, certain lawmakers are set on restricting that right. Each year, certain legislators continue to place obstacles in the path of the People’s ability to participate in our democracy and have their voices heard. Last year, legislators introduced and passed a bill that radically gutted the citizens’ initiative process by making it more expensive and cumbersome for people to navigate. We thought they had gone too far then, yet shockingly this bill goes even further.
“The introduction of SB 1794 makes it virtually impossible for everyday Floridians to be able to afford to participate in our democracy. If this bill passes, only the 1% will be able to afford the process of placing an amendment on our ballot.
“The intent of this bill is crystal clear: prevent the public from voting on amendments that will improve the lives of everyday Floridians. The People restored the right to vote through using the citizen initiative process; the People ensured that sick individuals would have access to medical marijuana through the citizen initiative process; the People preserved the state’s natural water and land resources through the citizen initiative process; and now the People are trying to pass an amendment that would raise the minimum wage so that workers can put food on their table and a roof over their head. But certain lawmakers want to deprive us of these daily dignities by erecting insurmountable roadblocks in the citizen initiative process. We the People will not be silenced.
“The reality is that Florida already has one of the most strict and onerous initiative processes in the country. If this bill passes, only the super-rich and well-monied special interest groups will be able to afford this process and place constitutional amendments on our ballots.
“Our democracy isn't and shouldn't be up for sale.”