Citizen initiatives continue to move forward despite tougher restrictions placed on petition gathering

by | Jun 11, 2019

From a ban on assault rifles, to legalizing recreational marijuana, to raising the minimum wage, to increasing competition in the energy industry, a series of citizen initiatives continue to plug along in an effort to collect enough voter signatures to be placed on the 2020 ballot.

Monday, the group called Ban Assault Weapons Now! announced it has reached enough voter signatures to trigger a review of the amendment’s ballot summary by the Florida Supreme Court.

The proposed amendment classifies assault weapons as semi-automatic rifles and shotguns capable of holding more than 10 rounds of ammunition at one time.

The proposal would exempt possession of such weapons by military and law enforcement personnel in their official duties and exempts assault weapons lawfully owned before the law takes effect.

The group has collected more than 103,000 signatures, surpassing the number required to require the review.  But that’s a long way from the 766,200 valid petition signatures the group must submit to the state Division of Elections office by next February to get on the November 2020 ballot.

That’s a tough task as it is, but this year’s Legislature passed a bill that Gov. Ron DeSantis signed just a few days ago that could make it harder for citizen initiative constitutional amendments to get on the ballot.

Among other things, the new law makes it illegal to pay petition gatherers based on the number of petitions they collect. The law also requires that signed petitions be turned into county supervisors of elections within 30 days. Each petition submitted late would be assessed a fine of up to $50.

Critics say the new requirements will make it more difficult to meet the required number of voter signatures to be placed on the ballot.

The changes in the law could pose challenges to other constitutional amendments that are trying to be make the 2020 ballot, including one that would raise the minimum wage in Florida to $15 an hour by 2026.

The amendment is backed by Orlando attorney John Morgan, who led the successful initiative to legalize medical marijuana in Florida. The proposal has over 239,000 petitions, but that’s more than 500,000 signatures below what is needed to make the ballot.

Another citizen’s initiative that organizers’ had high hopes of reaching the ballot but could be affected by the new requirements is Regulate Florida, an effort to legalize recreational marijuana use in Florida.

That amendment has just over 63,000 thousand signatures.

While the various initiatives still have the time to collect the needed signatures needed to make next year’s ballot, the key will be do they have the money to continue the momentum some of the proposals have developed that will be needed to overcome some of the new restrictions on petition gathering?





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