The political attention is usually focused on citizen-led constitutional amendment drives, but this spring, members of the Florida Legislature proposed nearly 30 constitutional amendments for the 2020 ballot. Not a single one passed.
There were 28 measures – known technically as joint resolutions – filed for the 2019 session. None garnered the required three-fifths vote from the House and Senate needed to win a spot on the 2020 ballot.
Only three measures made it to a floor vote in the Senate. None received a floor vote in the House.
Among the amendments that died: Republican-backed efforts to limit school board members to eight years in office and a measure to require a 66 percent vote to approve future constitutional amendments. (The current threshold is 60 percent for ballot measures.) Democrats filed a handful of proposed constitutional changes. Most never received a hearing. They included a measure to expand Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act and an amendment to legalize recreational marijuana use.
The state Senate did vote 40-0 for an amendment that would limit ballot proposals from the Constitution Revision Commission to a single subject. The CRC, which meets every 20 years, drew heavy criticism last year for “bundling” multiple constitutional changes into a single ballot item. The full House never considered the proposal.
The Senate also voted 35-4 to abolish the CRC, a move that Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis supported. But it did not pass the House.
Lawmakers will get another chance in their 2020 session – it begins in January – to propose constitutional changes for the next general election ballot.
But Democrats have the power to block measures they don’t like. Republicans will need to pick up at least one Democratic vote in the Senate in order to meet the three-fifths threshold for placing an amendment on the ballot.
Lawmakers did pass a bill (HB 5), over objections from Democrats, that will make it harder for citizen groups to gather signatures for ballot proposals. (See Here’s how Florida lawmakers messed with upcoming citizen campaigns to raise the minimum wage, ban assault weapons, expand Medicaid, and more)
In 2018, voters faced a dozen proposed constitutional amendments on the general election ballot. Three came from the Legislature, seven were from the CRC and two were citizen initiatives. Eleven passed.