Gov. DeSantis – a citizens’ initiative skeptic – disses proposal to raise Florida’s minimum wage

Republican gubernatorial-elect Ron DeSantis holds his hand over his heart as a woman sings the Star Spangled Banner during the 2018 Senate organizational session Tuesday, Nov. 20, in Florida's Capitol building in Tallahassee. CD Davidson-Hiers/Florida Phoenix

Gov. Ron DeSantis came out Monday against a proposed constitutional amendment to raise Florida’s minimum wage, telling a big-business conference that the state should make it harder to change the Florida Constitution through citizens’ initiatives.

The governor, delivering the keynote address to the Associated Industries of Florida’s annual conference, pitched the proposed minimum wage hike as an example of how the citizens’ initiative process can tie the Legislature’s hands.

The measure would raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour in $1 annual increments by 2026.

“That’s going to cause big, big upheaval in the restaurant industry – it just will. When you put that in the Constitution, we can’t just go back and say, ‘Oh, let’s tweak it, let’s do that.’ We literally would have to go back and do another constitutional amendment, “DeSantis said.

“So, I think having run-of-the-mill policy questions put into the Constitution is a no-no. If you’re going to amend the Constitution, it should be provisions similar to what we see with the federal constitution. You know, term limits, which we have, two-thirds [majorities in the Legislature] to raise taxes. Structural changes or things where you’re protecting individual rights,” the governor said.

“But trying to do this or that in the Constitution, ultimately, I think that would make it harder for us to solve problems.”

DeSantis praised a new law that makes it harder to collect petition signatures to place proposed amendments on Florida’s ballots, saying the process has become a “cottage industry” that favors deep-pocketed individuals and that rank-and-file voters frequently don’t understand what they’re voting on.

“I think it’s become more of a game rather than something that’s going to lead to good government.

DeSantis was already on record as a petition-drive skeptic, arguing in June in favor of standalone elections on proposed amendments that likely would drive down voter turnout.

In addition to the minimum wage drive, campaigns are underway to ban assault weapons, expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act, and legalize recreational marijuana use – items that enjoy broad public support but which the Republican-dominated Legislature has refused to enact.

The process already includes roadblocks including review by the Florida Supreme Court before proposals can go on the ballot. Additionally, amendments require 60 percent of the votes cast to win approval.

“The more policy that you put into the Constitution, the harder it is to be actually able to do what the people want you to do. It makes it harder to fix problems if you have handcuffs on,” DeSantis said.