Despite moves by state Republican leaders to limit citizen-led ballot measures, more than a half-dozen proposals remain in play with a Feb. 1 deadline approaching.
They include efforts to raise the minimum wage, ban assault weapons, expand Medicaid, legalize recreational marijuana, overhaul the primary-election process and increase competition among electric utilities.
Two key indicators can be used to gauge the chances of the proposals reaching the 2020 general election ballot: the number of signatures collected and the amount of money behind the petition drives.
To be successful, the initiatives must secure at least 766,200 validated voter signatures to win a place on the ballot by Feb. 1. That task has been made more difficult by a new law, endorsed by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, that imposes more regulations on the process of gathering signatures. Among the new regulatory hurdles, it requires petition gatherers to be registered with the state.
One of the most viable proposals appears to be Orlando lawyer John Morgan’s effort to allow voters to decide whether to raise the state hourly minimum wage to $15. If approved by voters, it would boost the current $8.46-an-hour wage to $10 by September 2021. Annual increases would eventually lift the wage to $15 an hour by 2026.
The initiative has collected 343,749 validated signatures as of Friday, according to the state Division of Elections. Morgan’s law firm put in more than $800,000 for the campaign in June, with more than $3 million spent on the effort thus far.
“Not worried about headwinds. If money can solve a problem, you solve the problem. This IS my last crusade,” Morgan tweeted on Thursday. He previously led a successful citizen petition drive to legalizemedical marijuana in Florida. More than 70 percent of the voters supported the constitutional change.
An effort to ban assault weapons in Florida has gathered 94,925 signatures, according to state election records. The campaign has spent more than $910,000 through June. More details on the effort can be found in this Florida Phoenix report.
A proposal to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act has collected 79,194 signatures. More than $547,000 in in-kind support has been reported through June. Here’s a Florida Phoenix report on what the expansion could mean for Florida.
Two efforts to legalize recreational marijuana remain under way. A state constitutional amendment that would regulate marijuana like alcohol sales in the state has gathered 67,036 signatures through Friday, state records show. The group Sensible Florida has spent some $135,000 on the campaign.
Another marijuana legalization proposal, from Floridians for Freedom, has collected 24,014 signatures and spent some $15,000 on the effort, records show.
Some of the heaviest spending on a citizen initiative has come from the All Voters Vote group. Mike Fernandez, a wealthy health-care executive from Miami-Dade County, is largely financing the effort and has spent some $5.6 million on the campaign through June, state records show.
The campaign has collected some 250,192 signatures for an amendment that would eliminate the traditional party-based primaries for elections involving the Legislature, the governor and state Cabinet offices. Instead, all the candidates would qualify for the primary and all registered voters could participate. The two candidates who received the most votes would advance to the general election. Here’s a Florida Phoenix guest column about the proposal.
Another citizen petition drive with considerable financial support is an effort to increase competition among the investor-owned electric utilities in the state. The Citizens for Energy Choice group has collected some 339,966 signatures and has spend just under $3 million through June, state records show. Here’s a Florida Phoenix report on the proposal.