Harder to Change the State Constitution

On the day that the governor and others proposed asking voters for a do over on high-speed rail, state lawmakers are quietly working to reach

Consensus on making it harder for voters to change the state Constitution, but the many who wrote the language giving voters a say believes voters should have a way around the Legislature.

Gov. Reubin Askew, Florida's first two-term governor, was also the first person to successfully lead a constitutional amendment drive on ethics when lawmakers wouldn't do it. He believes citizens still need a way around a reluctant legislature.

"We start trying to increase the number of signatures or an extraordinary majority to pass that, I think you are reducing the right of people to have that excess when they disagree with the legislature," says Askew.

But plans are flying at the capitol to make it harder for voters to go around lawmakers in the future.

"Constitution shows certain guiding principles not other things that can be statute like the clean air act, or about the pigs," says Rep. Curtis Smith.

Dozens of lobbyists have clients like road builders or property managers who want the change, but no one is lobbying in the hallways for average voters.

Sensing the irony, Jeb Bush has backed away from making amendments harder. He wants future amendments to carry a price tag and perhaps a tax increase.

"You got a great idea, there ought to be a independent evaluation of what the cost is, and there ought to be a taxing source associated with it. That's what local referendum do," says Gov. Bush.

In the end it will be voters who decide if they want to make it harder to amend the constitution, but the last time voters were asked if they wanted to make it harder to vote for something the answer was no.

That vote came in 2000 when voters refused to give up their right to elect circuit judges. Ironically, of the 95 amendments to the state Constitution since 1968, only 16 have come from voters. The other 79 came from the Legislature or Constitution Revision Commission.


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