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Measure to require two-thirds majority to amend constitution clears House committee

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Rep. Rick Roth

Rep. Rick Roth

A House panel has approved a measure that would require a two-thirds voter majority — instead of the current 60% — to amend the Florida Constitution.

The House Ethics, Elections & Open Government Subcommittee voted 12-6 on February 14 to approve HJR 129 by Rep. Rick Roth, R-West Palm Beach.

The Florida Constitution should be more difficult to change because it protects basic freedoms, Roth argued.

“For Americans to remain free, and to be protected from our own government, we must hold our Constitution sacred,” Roth said.

If approved by the Legislature, the measure would appear on the November 2024 ballot. It would ask voters to require future amendments to pass by a “66.67%” majority.

Democrats and other critics noted that the measure — which would not take effect until November 7, 2025 — would only have to pass by a 60% majority.

“Do you think it is fair you need 60% to pass this, and it would require 66.67%?” asked Rep. Jennifer Harris, D-Orlando.

Roth said it was fair — “and appropriate.”

“Requiring broader public support is making sure that the majority of citizens fully understand what you’re trying to do with your amendment,” Roth said.

Rep. Felicia Robinson, D-Miami Gardens, said she couldn’t see the connection.

“Do we not trust Floridians to change the Constitution?” she asked. “I do not understand how raising the number is going to educate [voters] more.”

Representatives from the League of Women Voters, the ACLU of Florida, the Sierra Club, Florida Rising, and others lined up to speak against the measure.

Popular proposals, such as property tax relief for veterans and first responders, a $15 minimum wage, and civil rights restoration for ex-felons, would have failed under a two-thirds majority threshold, the critics noted.

Rich Templin, public policy director for AFL-CIO of Florida, reminded lawmakers that they have spent years making initiative process more expensive, time consuming, and harder to navigate.

Further restrictions will make supporters look “elitist,” Templin warned.

“We ask you to vote no, because this is just fundamentally undemocratic,” Templin said. “We’ve gone far enough.”

Jonathan Webber, policy director with the SPLC Action Fund, said the proposal would give a one-third minority veto power over the will of the majority. Citizen’s initiatives are the Constitution’s cure for an unresponsive Legislature, Webber said.

“We don’t need or want the Legislature to limit our check on your power,” he told the committee. “Please vote no.”

Rep. Mike Beltran, R-Valrico, told Roth he would vote for the measure in committee because he agrees the Constitution should be harder to change.

But he said he would not vote for it on the floor if it still contained a provision that would allow voters, by a 50% majority, to repeal amendments that were enacted before the 60% threshold was adopted in 2006.

“The vast majority of the Constitution was enacted at that 50% threshold,” Beltran said. “I can live with a $15 minimum wage and so forth….but what I can’t live with is 50% to get rid of the right to bear arms.”

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