New citizens initiative restrictions signed into law

By: Jake Stofan | Capitol News Service
June 10, 2019

Courtesy: Office of Governor Ron DeSantis

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (CNS) -- Two proposed constitutional amendments have collected enough signatures to be reviewed by the State Supreme Court; One would ban assault weapons, the other would let you choose where you buy your electricity.

But a new law signed by Governor Ron DeSantis could make it harder for those and other amendments to make it on the ballot.

Medical marijuana, Florida Forever and automatic restoration of voting rights for felons are just a few major initiatives put in the state constitution through citizens initiatives.

“The people of Florida use the initiative process to get what they want done when the Florida legislature is standing in their way,” said Scott McCoy with Southern Poverty Law Center.

The new law creates restrictions for campaigns that pay petition gatherers.

All paid petition gatherers must now register with the state and it's now illegal to pay petition gatherers by the signature.

"It seems that the legislature, and the governor for that matter, really don't like it when the voters tell them what to do,” said Jonathan Webber with the Florida Conservation Voters.

Webber worked on the Florida Forever campaign.

“There's no question that [if] HB 5 were in law when we were doing our amendment, [it] would have been next to impossible, or extremely extremely difficult to get this on the ballot,” said Webber.

When asked about the legislation in May, Governor DeSantis told reporters he wasn’t confident the new restrictions went far enough.

“We've let too much policy go into the constitution,” said DeSantis. "If you want to do policy through an initiative, it should be a statutory initiative.”

However, Florida law doesn’t allow that.

Supervisors of Elections also have a number of questions about the new law.

It requires supervisors to print, distribute and track petitions.

“The main concern is how we're going to get these petitions developed, how we're going to have them numbered, how we're going to keep track of that process and the cost associated with it,” said Ron Labasky with the Florida State Association of Supervisor of Elections.

Petitions gathered before the new law officially takes effect on July 7 will be exempt from the new requirements, but it will still affect initiatives for the 2020 election.

Some of the ongoing campaigns include open primaries, a $15 minimum wage and legalizing recreational marijuana.

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