House subcommittee advances proposal to increase majority requirement for constitutional amendments

by | Jan 29, 2024

The House Ethics, Elections, and Open Government Subcommittee in Florida advanced a proposal on Monday that seeks to increase the required majority for passing constitutional amendments from 60 percent to 66.67 percent, amidst debates over the implications for democratic participation and the stability of the state Constitution.

The House Ethics, Elections, and Open Government Subcommittee advanced a proposal on Monday that would make it more difficult to pass constitutional amendments in Florida.

The proposal, HJR 335, carried by Rep. Rick Roth, would raise the threshold required for passing constitutional amendments from 60 percent to 66.67 percent if adopted. In introducing the bill to the committee, Roth expressed concern over the “current trustworthiness of media and government,” contending that by raising the necessary vote share to pass an amendment, voters would have a higher propensity to be “fully informed.”

“We’ve entered a period when we’re not sure whether the media and government are telling us the complete truth about things that are going on,” said Roth. “When you think about it, for you to be able to vote on a constitutional amendment when you go to the ballot box, you need to have all the facts. And so I say the best way we can protect our Florida constitution is to make sure that everyone understands and supports a new constitutional amendment before they vote yes on it.”

Committee members voiced concerns regarding the implication that a 60 percent threshold is insufficient and whether the proposal might complicate efforts to codify certain rights, such as women’s reproductive choices. Roth responded by highlighting the necessity of a higher bar for constitutional changes, equating it with existing supermajorities required for specific state and federal legislative actions while denying that the resolution targets issues like women’s reproductive rights.

Meanwhile, public testimony featured a range of perspectives. Opponents of the bill, including representatives from the Florida AFL-CIO and the League of Women Voters, argued that the proposal could hinder democratic participation and suggested that making citizen initiatives for constitutional amendments more challenging would limit democratic engagement and potentially obstruct necessary changes to the constitution.

“How does requiring a supermajority protect Floridians’ constitutional rights to participate in the citizens initiative process?” asked Gretchen Robinson, a teacher and environmentalist from Orlando. “Let’s give our electorate the benefit of the doubt with respect to them doing their due diligence rather than throwing shade at the media and the intelligence and diligence of voters when the threshold requirement is arbitrarily raised.”

Conversely, several speakers supported the bill, indicating that the Constitution should not be subject to frequent changes and that a higher threshold would ensure more stability and deliberate consideration of amendments.

During the debate, lawmakers in support of the bill echoed public testimony, arguing that a higher threshold for amendments would protect the Constitution from hasty or poorly understood changes. They likened this to safeguarding minority rights and preserving constitutional stability. In contrast, critics contended that the proposal might suppress the will of the people. They highlighted that many popular amendments would not have passed under the proposed higher threshold, raising concerns about disenfranchising citizens from the initiative process.

“We have a process in place that’s already very difficult to accomplish, and then when it is accomplished they have another hurdle which is 60 percent,” said Rep. “So essentially, we’re saying that even going through all of that, voters in Florida are still not smart enough to decide on a ballot initiative, but they’re smart enough to vote for us. That doesn’t make any sense.”


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