TALLAHASSEE, FL – The Senate Rules Committee today voted to pass Senate Bill 1794, which would drastically undermine the will of the people.
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. In short, the bill would make it harder for Florida citizens to amend the Constitution.
The companion House version of this bill, HB 7037, has already passed through its committees, and is ready to be heard by the full House.
Kara Gross, legislative director of the ACLU of Florida, responded to today’s hearing with the following:
“This bill is purposefully designed to make the ballot initiative process too costly and burdensome for everyday Floridians to participate in their democracy. The reality is that the citizen initiative process is already incredibly difficult and expensive for Floridians to successfully place potential amendments before the voters, and this bill makes it nearly impossible.
“This unnecessary bill is yet another outrageous attempt by certain Florida legislators to silence Floridians’ voices. Last year, legislators passed a bill that radically gutted the citizens’ initiative process by making it more expensive and onerous. If we thought they had gone too far then, this bill goes even further and reflects the state legislature’s desperate attempt on preventing the public from voting on amendments that will improve the lives of everyday Floridians - like increasing the minimum wage.
“It is no coincidence that the state legislature is seeking to pass these types of bills in the aftermath of the historic passage of Amendment 4, as well as other citizen-driven ballot initiatives concerning land and water conservation, medical marijuana, and fair districts. If this bill passes, it will certainly mean that only well-monied special interest groups will be able to successfully place constitutional amendments on our ballots and that grassroots citizens movements will be shut out of our democratic process.
“Florida’s constitution explicitly reserves the citizen initiative process for the People, not for monied interests. Democracy in Florida isn't and shouldn't be up for sale.”