The Phoenix Flyer

FYI voters: Soon, it could be more difficult to pass a constitutional amendment

By: - April 19, 2023 2:49 pm

Signs for and against the state constitutional amendment have become a common sight throughout Kansas this summer. Credit: (Tim Carpenter/Kansas Reflector). Courtesy of the Kansas Reflector.

With Republicans in control of all branches of state government for nearly three decades, the only way that progressive measures like raising the minimum wage to $15 and legalizing medical marijuana were able to become law is because citizens approved them as constitutional amendments.

But under a joint resolution (HJR 129) moving in the Legislature, it would be harder to pass such amendments in the future. That’s because the resolution would raise the threshold for passage from 60% to 66.67%.

Voting rights groups are firmly against the proposal.

“Do you believe that 33.4% of voters should be able to override a decision made by 66.6%? We believe no,” said Jonathan Webber, the Florida policy director with the Southern Poverty Law Center.

Abdelilah Skhir is the voting rights policy strategist with the ACLU of Florida. He noted that of the 75 constitutional amendments placed on statewide ballots in Florida since 2000, 37 have come from the Legislature itself as joint resolutions, which this proposal is. The other amendments include citizen-led initiatives, as well as those which have come from Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

“My modest proposal would be simply not to pass as many joint resolutions (related to the Legislature),” Skhir quipped.

Orlando Democrat Anna Eskamani said the process to amend the state constitution is already extremely onerous, and that there is no need to make it harder. “I do see this as just another unnecessary effort to make it more difficult for voters to have direct democracy,” she said.

Republican lawmakers have attempted similar proposals in recent legislative sessions to raise the threshold to two-thirds of voters to pass constitutional amendments without success.

The measure passed in the House State Affairs Committee on a party line vote and now goes to the full House for a vote. However, its Senate equivalent (SJR 1410) has not been heard in any committee in that chamber to date.

If approved by three-fifths of both chambers of the Legislature, the measure would be placed on the November 2024 statewide ballot, where it would need 60% of voter support to go into effect. (Because it is still the current law, it would need the 60 percent.)

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.