The lawsuit was filed the day after Governor DeSantis signed SB1890 into law
TALLAHASSEE, FLA. — The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Florida filed a lawsuit today to block a Florida law that will chill the citizen initiative process and violate Floridians’ First Amendment rights. The lawsuit was filed the day after Gov. DeSantis signed Senate Bill 1890 into law. The new law would impose a $3,000 limit on contributions made by individuals to sponsors of state ballot initiatives.
Since 1976, the Florida legislature has enacted proposals to undermine the citizen initiative process. Florida already has one of the most restrictive citizen initiative processes in the country. SB1890 would make it much harder for Florida citizens to unite and propose changes to the state constitution. By limiting the donations individuals can make to state ballot initiatives, SB1890 unconstitutionally burdens and chills Florida citizens’ free speech and association, as protected by the First Amendment.
“Over the last several years, the Florida Legislature has passed dozens of bills to undermine the citizen initiative process,” said Nicholas Warren, staff attorney at the ACLU of Florida. “Florida citizens’ right to participate directly in our democracy is protected by the Constitution, and yet, the Legislature and governor have made it their mission to make it even more difficult for Floridians to enact change. This latest attempt is a clear and obvious violation of Floridians’ free speech rights.”
In 1968, Florida voters adopted a constitutional amendment initiative procedure, giving Floridians “[t]he power to propose the revision or amendment of any portion or portions of [the] Constitution by initiative. In the half-century since the right of initiative was enshrined in the Constitution, Floridians have put 42 measures on the ballot for their fellow citizens’ consideration and voters have approved 32 of those initiatives. These initiatives include raising the minimum wage, protecting water and land conservation, legalizing medical cannabis, adopting fairer redistricting rules, and restoring voting rights to 1.4 million Floridians.
By 1976, the Florida legislature began enacting proposals to constrain and undermine Florida citizens’ right to participate directly in the citizen initiative process. These restrictions have made it costlier and more difficult for Floridians to propose a constitutional amendment and get it on the ballot.
Given the extraordinary cost of collecting petition signatures needed to qualify for the ballot, and defending an amendment at the Florida Supreme Court, the new law would essentially nullify Floridians’ direct democracy rights. Senate Bill 1890 also violates longstanding First Amendment case law. Decades ago, Florida had a contribution cap for all political committees, and the U.S. Court of Appeals and Supreme Court struck down that limit as violating the First Amendment, which protects our freedom to express views on political matters, including to advance ballot measures.
The lawsuit, ACLU of Florida v. Lee, was filed in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida.
The complaint can be found here: https://www.aclufl.org/en/aclu-florida-v-lee-complaint