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Voter initiatives could become more difficult

February 28th, 2017 by Mike Vasilinda

Should it be harder to amend our state constitution? Many lawmakers have never been happy with the process that allows citizens to go around them and approve measures such as class size or medical marijuana.

Governor Rubin Askew was the first to use the initiative process after the constitution was modernized in 1968.> Askew was frustrated with legislative inaction on financial disclosure requirement.

“They wouldn’t do it, so I went out on the stump” Askew told us in 2001.

Following medical marijuana’s passage, Sen. Dennis Baxley wants to make it harder for voters to approve constitutional changes…He wants to go from 60 percent to a two thirds vote.

“It’s not meant for all these things we see getting injected in there in terms of appropriations and policies. there are legislative issues that should be passed by representative government” Baxley says of the amendment process.

After the class size, high speed rail, and anti smoking amendments passed

in 2002 lawmakers asked voters to raise the approval threshold to 60 percent. Damien Filer ran the class size campaign.

Q“And indeed, they made it harder to amendment the constitution afterwards?”

“They did, In fact they made it harder than anywhere else in the United States to amend the constitution. we’re the only state in the country that has a sixty percent plus one threshold.”

Filer says there is nothing easy about amending the constitution. Indeed, most proposals never make it to a vote.

And amending the Constitution is about to get harder, even without legislative action.

Because nearly a million more people voted in November then four years ago, the number of required petitions will increase by just over 75,000…making getting on the ballot all the more difficult and costly.

If the effort fails during the legislative session, the Constitution Revision Commission begins meeting later this year. If either approves higher approval percentages, voters will still have the final say.

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