Florida like many states has a process to amend it constitution. While that process has changed over the years, a trend seems to be clear. Legislators want to make it harder and harder for Floridians to amend the laws that govern them. Initially, only a simple majority was required to pass an amendment. This rose to sixty percent (60%) in 2006. And now if the Republican backed house and senate have their way, that percentage will increase to two-thirds (2/3) or approximately sixty-seven percent (67%) for an amendment to be approved.
A proposal has been given the go ahead to be placed on the 2020 election calendar for Floridians to approve the change. Ironically enough, since the proposal would actually be amending a part of the constitution that governs amendments, it would only require sixty percent (60%) to pass as opposed to sixty-seven (67%). Proponents of the law cite an ability to weaken outside influence in shaping Florida’s law as the reason for the change. While opponents see it as a direct attack on citizens’ abilities to provide input of the laws that govern them.
One issue tangled in this debate is redistricting. Democrats have long argued that the Republican majority has engaged in jerrymandering and other illegal activity to ensure they have enough votes to stay in power. If this proposal were to become law, Democrats also feel that Republicans will gain the upper head in shaping the future of Florida’s Constitution.
For example, in the last election eleven out twelve constitutional amendments were approved by voters. However, if the sixty-seven percent (67%) threshold had been required, this number would have dropped to only four. Interestingly, one of the most controversial of the amendments, Amendment 4, which reinstated the right to vote to felons who had completed their sentences would NOT have been approved. Despite what many thought was clear language, the Florida legislature has fought hard to tinker with the implementation of Amendment 4 and specifically what it means to fulfill the requirements of one’s sentence.1
Despite arguments on both sides, the one saving grace is that the voters will have a say if the change occurs. Since the amendment must be approved in the election, ultimately whether or not it becomes harder to change our laws will be left in the very people who have to live by them every day.
-By Marc Consalo, Director of the Center for Law and Policy