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Contending for Amending

You may have signed a petition to get an issue you felt strongly about on the November ballot, like raising the minimum wage or banning smoking in the workplace.

Many lawmakers don’t think it should be so easy. Proposed changes would force signature gatherers to wear buttons saying they’re paid, and the validity of signatures could be challenged if the group collecting them doesn't meet a slew of new requirements.

Paul Dunn with Save the Voter’s Voice thinks it’s bogus.

"This is not about protecting the voters; it's about ending the voters’ rights to petition their government."

But lawmakers point to a petition drive that resulted in a constitutional protection for pregnant pigs as one reason for tightening the rules.

Former Senate President Jim King denies they’re trying to shut citizens out of the process.

Sen. Jim King, (R) Jacksonville, says, "No one wants to do that. However, we’re also, on balance, aware of the fact that we’re now getting 15 and 20 constitutional amendments every election cycle; pregnant pigs being the classic example of one that shouldn't be in the Constitution."

King’s proposal would require 60 percent voter approval to pass an amendment. Another would restrict amendments to issues already covered by the Constitution, but it would only apply to citizen initiatives.

Brenda Olsen, who helped push for the smoking ban, says that’s not fair.

"We feel very strongly that whatever is fair for the citizens is also fair for the Legislature," she says.

Many lawmakers seem to think they know better than voters what’s in the public’s best interest, but in the end, voters will have the final say.

Lawmakers who oppose changes to the constitutional amendment process point to reports showing voters have only offered about 20 amendments over the past three decades.

The Legislature has proposed 86. Right now, the Legislature has almost 50 proposed amendments under consideration.


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