TITLE: VOTER APPROVAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS
PLACED BY: Citizens Initiative, Keep Our Constitution Clean PC
“Requires all proposed amendments or revisions to the state constitution to be approved by the voters in two elections, instead of one, in order to take effect. The proposal applies the current thresholds for passage to each of the two elections.”
A YES VOTE MEANS:
The Constitution would require proposed amendments to be approved by 60% or more of the voters at a second general election to become effective.
A NO VOTE MEANS:
Leaves the current system in place; requiring constitutional amendments be approved once by 60% or more of the voters to become effective.
Supporters maintain that the constitution is a foundational document that lays out the framework and structure for how we govern ourselves. As such, amending the constitution should require careful thought and deliberation, and should require the broad support of the electorate. In short, amending the constitution should be hard.
Proponents say Amendment 4 will help to ensure that voters fully understand the immediate and future impacts of any proposed changes to our state constitution. Requiring 60% or more of the voters to twice approve a proposed constitutional amendment will reduce the number of “whimsical” constitutional amendments, and those brought to a vote in the heat of a moment.
Additionally, supporters argue that the passage of Amendment 4 will make it more difficult for a singular, well-financed special interest group to protect their interests through constitutional amendments.
Opponents say Amendment 4 will make it more difficult to amend the Florida Constitution. Having to vote twice on proposed amendments could cost voters time, as they have to read through them, and could cost taxpayers more money. Opponents also cite the good track record of Florida voters of enacting responsible constitutional amendments when the will of the people is ignored by the Legislature.
Opponents believe that most voters are fairly educated and capable of reading and understanding proposed amendments the first time; no second vote is necessary to help them understand the full ramifications of their first vote.
Florida has more ways (five) to propose amendments for the state constitution than any other state:
• The Florida State Legislature can put a proposed amendment on the ballot with a 60 percent approval from each chamber in a joint resolution.
• Every 20 years starting in 1977, the Florida Constitution Revision Commission meets prior to legislative session and recommends proposed revisions and amendments that will go on the statewide ballot.
• The citizen initiative grants citizens the ability to petition for constitutional amendments. Along with some limits, proponents must collect signatures equal to 8 percent of the total number of votes cast in the last presidential election for initiatives to be placed on the ballot.
• A constitutional convention composed of elected delegates can be held to propose revisions and amendments to state constitutions. To call for the convention, proponents must collect signatures equal to 15 percent of the last presidential election to put a question on the ballot asking, “Shall a constitutional convention be held?”
• The Florida Taxation and Budget Reform Commission meets every twenty years starting in 2007 and can decide on proposed amendments to be added to the ballot.
Amendment 4 would require all future proposals that end up on the state ballot to be passed once, and then again during the next statewide election for all proposal methods. Florida’s current system for adopting amendments requires a supermajority of 60 percent of people to vote for an amendment to pass, an initiative that Florida TaxWatch recommended and advanced for over a decade before it was enacted in 2006. Having a supermajority vote for Constitutional amendments has limited the number of proposed amendments that have passed, as well as strengthened the checks and balances needed to achieve consensus. If this amendment passes, it is possible that that some rulemaking will be required to conform and determine it is needed to inform voters to the fact that all future proposed constitutional amendments are being presented for the first time versus the second ballot, at least until voters become familiar with the new process.
No other state currently has a full pass-it-twice requirement as proposed in Florida’s ballot. One other state, Nevada, enacted a pass-it-twice amendment in 1962 that only applies to citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. Since then, 14 citizen-initiated measures have passed through the first election, and 12 of those 14 passed the second election. Florida’s current proposal would apply to all five methods of amending the constitution. There is a similar initiative in North Dakota that would require citizen-initiated amendments that were approved in the statewide election to be approved by the legislature. If not, then the amendment would have to be approved a second time by voters to become enacted. Florida’s current proposal is not identical to any other amendment approval processes.
There is ample evidence to support the assertion that Florida’s constitution is too easily amended. The current (and sixth) Florida Constitution, which was adopted on November 5, 1968, has since been amended 140 times. Since the last (27th) amendment to the U.S. Constitution in May 1992, Florida’s constitution has been amended more than 50 times. Since the 60 percent approval threshold was approved in 2006, Florida’s constitution has been amended 28 times. During the 2018 general election alone, 12 proposed amendments went to the voters, and 11 of the 12 were approved.
Among states with a process for citizen-initiated constitutional amendments, Florida featured the most proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot from 2006 through 2018, with a total of 50. Of the 50 amendments, 13 were placed on the ballot through the citizen-initiative process, and Florida voters approved 66 percent of the proposed amendments (33 of 50). From 2006 through 2018, states with initiated amendments featured an average of 21 proposed constitutional changes, of which an average of around 13 (59 percent) were approved.
Section 100.371, Florida Statutes, requires the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC) to adopt and prepare a financial impact statement for any proposed constitutional amendment that has been placed on the ballot through the citizens’ initiative process. The FIEC has prepared and adopted the following financial impact statement for Amendment 4:
“It is probable that the proposed amendment will result in additional state and local government costs to conduct elections in Florida. Overall, these costs will vary from election cycle to election cycle depending on the unique circumstances of each ballot and cannot be estimated at this time. The key factors determining cost include the number of amendments appearing for the second time on each ballot and the length of those amendments. Since the maximum state cost is likely less than $1 million per cycle but the impact cannot be discretely quantified, the change to the state’s budget is unknown. Similarly, the economic impact cannot be modeled, although the spending increase is expected to be below the threshold that would produce a statewide economic impact. Because there are no revenues linked to voting in Florida, there will be no impact on government taxes or fees.”
With so many ways to amend the constitution, it is easy for well-financed special interest groups to advance their interests through constitutional amendments. If there was ever an issue that was unworthy of constitutional consideration, it was the 2002 amendment promoted by animal rights groups that prohibits the cruel confinement of pregnant pigs in gestation crates. This amendment was approved by a simple majority (54.75%) of the voters and would not have been approved if the current supermajority requirement had been in effect. This measure in no way establishes the basic order of government, nor defines the relationship between government and those that are governed.
Florida TaxWatch has historically supported measures that require broader public support for constitutional amendments or revisions. In 2006, after 12 years of considerable public policy research, communications, and engagement, Florida TaxWatch was a major supporter of Amendment 3, which amended the constitution to require a supermajority (60%) vote to amend or revise the constitution. It was the position of Florida TaxWatch then, as it is now, that higher thresholds for approving constitutional amendments are necessary to broaden consensus and to limit the ability of well-financed special interest groups to secure constitutional protections.
FOR THESE REASONS FLORIDA TAXWATCH RECOMMENDS A “YES” VOTE ON AMENDMENT 4.