Over the past few decades, Floridians frustrated that the Legislature won’t advance important reforms have gone directly to the ballot box to pass amendments to the Florida Constitution. But that could get harder under a new proposal by two Republican legislators.
Central Florida Republican Dennis Baxley has introduced a resolution in the Florida Senate that would increase the percentage needed to pass Florida Constitutional amendments from 60 percent to 66 and two-thirds percent. A companion bill has been filed by Palm Beach County Republican Rick Roth in the Florida House of Representatives.
If that were in effect during the last election, Amendment 4 – which automatically restores voting rights to most felons – would not have passed. That historic measure received 64.5 percent support. In fact, only four of the twelve amendments on the November 2018 ballot would have succeeded under Baxley’s proposal, instead of the eleven that did get the 60 percent approval that’s required now.
Baxley’s move to make it more difficult to pass Florida Constitutional amendments is part of a years-long pattern by the GOP-controlled Legislature. Constitutional amendments used to pass the way other electoral contests do – by a simple majority. But in 2006, state lawmakers raised the margin to 60 percent.
Other popular proposals that would be thwarted by Baxley’s bill include the Florida Fair Districts Amendment that attempted to scale back congressional and legislative gerrymandering. That measure was passed by 63 percent of the voters in 2010.