Laws governing the initiative process in Florida (archive)

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Citizens of Florida can use the ballot initiative process to:
  • Call a constitutional convention for the purpose of amending the state constitution

Citizens of Florida can also vote on amendments to the state constitution proposed by:

Amendment by citizen initiative

Beginning the process

The first step in the process of qualifying an initiative is to register with the Division of Elections as a political committee.[1] A statement of organization of the committee is required within 24 hours of anticipation of receiving contributions or making expenditures.

Petition form approval

Once proponents form and register their committee, they must file their initiative with the Division of Elections. Proponents write their own ballot title (no more than 15 words) and ballot summary (no more than 75 words). Petitions must contain the title, summary, the article and section of the Constitution being created or amended, and full text of the amendment. The Division of Elections reviews the petition for form only and must approve or disapprove the form within seven days. Once the format is approved, the Divisions of Elections assigns a serial number, which must be printed in the lower-right corner of the petition form. Proponents can then begin circulating the petition. A sample petition form can be viewed on the Secretary of State web site.

Any material changes to the petition form must be reapproved by the Division of Elections; it will be considered a new petition form and assigned a new serial number.

Subject restrictions

Florida has a very strict single-subject rule, requiring that each initiative amendment "shall embrace but one subject and matter directly connected therewith." However, amendments limiting the power of government to raise revenue are exempted from the single-subject restriction.

Initial circulation period

Once proponents gather 10% of the total number of signatures needed from at least seven Congressional districts, they turn them into the Supervisors of Elections in each county where signers are registered to vote. The Supervisors then have 30 days to verify each signature and, within 24 hours of verification, record all valid signatures in the statewide voter registration system with the date of signing, date of receipt, date of verification, and the serial number of the petition. Each Supervisor of Elections must certify to the Division of Elections the total number of signatures checked, verified, and their distribution by Congressional district. The Secretary of State then certifies them, and sends them to the Attorney General.

Supreme Court approval

The Attorney General has 30 days to forward the initiative language to the Florida Supreme Court for approval. The Supreme Court has until April 1 in the year of the general election ballot the amendment seeks to appear on to rule on the initiative's legal status. If the Court approves it, proponents must gather the remaining signatures to put it on the ballot. If the Court rule that the initiative is unconstitutional, violates the single-subject rule, or is invalid for any other reason, the initiative is dead.

Signature requirements

Main article: Florida signature requirements

To place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, proponents must collect signatures equal to 8% of the total number of votes cast in the last Presidential election. To place a call for a constitutional convention on the ballot, proponents must collect signatures equal 15% of that total.

Year Amendment Convention
2014 683,149 1,271,127
2012 676,811 1,267,449
2010 676,811 1,267,449
2008 611,009 1,145,642

DocumentIcon.jpg See law: Florida Constitution, Article XI, Section 3-4

Signature filing deadlines

Certification of signatures must be submitted to the Divisions of Elections by the Supervisors of Elections no later than February 1 for a proposed amendment to appear on that year's general election ballot. Since the Supervisors of Elections have 31 days to submit that certification after signatures are submitted, signatures should be submitted no later than January 1.

(Prior to the passage of Florida Amendment 2 (2004), the deadline for submitting signatures was approximately 3 months prior to the general election rather than about 9 months prior to the election.[2])

Circulation period

Initiative petitions can continue indefinitely, but a voter's signature is no longer valid four years after the date it was signed.

Distribution requirement

See also: Distribution requirement

Florida has a distribution requirement. Signatures of 8% of the total number of votes cast in the preceding presidential election in at least 13 of Florida's 25 Congressional districts. A chart listing the number of signatures required for each Congressional district is posted on the Florida Secretary of State's website.

Signature verification

Florida does not allow random sampling in the verification process. Each signature must be validated and recorded. The committee sponsoring the initiative must pay the Supervisors of Elections at the time petitions are submitted a fee of 10-cents per signature or actual costs of verifying, whichever is less. The committee can claim that the fee would create an undue burden and request that the fee be waived by filing an Affidavit of Undue Burden with the Division of Elections.

Signature revocation

See also: Petition signature revocation

Up until June 17, 2009, Florida voters who signed initiative petitions had the option of revoking the signature within 150 days of signing a petition. Election officials were required to make revocation forms available at all election offices. Voters who wanted to revoke their signature had to file a petition-revocation form and pay 10-cents (the signature verification fee in Florida) or the actual cost of verification.

However, in June 2009, in the case of Florida Hometown Democracy v. Browning, the Florida Supreme Court said that the state's signature revocation law was unconstitutional.[3]

Circulator restrictions

Residency

Florida does not require individuals circulating petitions in Florida to be Florida residents.

Paid petition circulators must fill in their names and addresses on the petitions they circulate. Political committees sponsoring initiatives that paid individuals to collect signatures are not permitted to file the Affidavit of Undue Burden to request relief from petition-verification charges.

After verification

After sufficient signatures have been certified, the Secretary of State issues a certificate of ballot position to the sponsoring political committee and assigns a designating ballot number.

Within 45 days after certification of sufficient signatures, the Financial Impact Estimating Conference shall complete an analysis and financial impact statement of not more than 75 words to be placed on the ballot explaining the estimated impact the amendment would have on the revenues or costs to state or local governments. The Financial Impact Estimating Conference provides an opportunity for proponents or opponents to submit information and solicits information from other agencies. All meetings of the Conference are required to be open to the public. The financial impact statement is submitted to the Florida Attorney General and the Florida Secretary of State.

In addition to the impact statement, the Conference also prepares a more detailed "initiative financial information statement," which must be printed and made available to voters at all polling places and at the main office of the supervisors of elections, upon request. The statement must also be posted on the Secretary of State's web site, as well as any supervisor of elections web sites.

If the Florida Supreme Court has not issued a ruling on the financial impact statement by 5 pm on the 75th day before the general election, the statement is considered approved. If the Supreme Court rejects the first submitted statement, the Conference has 15 days to submit a new version to the Court.

If the Financial Impact Estimating Conference is unable to agree on the impact statement, or if the Supreme Court rejects the impact statement submitted and no redraft is approved by the Supreme Court by 5 pm on the 75th day before the election, the following statement shall appear on the ballot: "The financial impact of this measure, if any, cannot be reasonably determined at this time."[4]

In the case of a constitutional convention, the question "Shall a constitutional convention be held?" will be submitted to voters at the next general election more than 90 days after the filing of the petition. If a majority voting on the question votes "Yes," each state representative district will elect a member to the constitutional convention at the next succeeding general election. On the 21st day following that election, the convention shall sit at the capital, elect officers, adopt rules of procedure, judge the election of its membership, and fix a time and place for its future meetings. The Convention is to file with the custodian of state records any revision of the constitution it choose to propose no later than 90 days before the next succeeding general election.

Other methods of proposing amendments

State legislature

The Florida State Legislature may propose amendments to the state constitution by joint resolution agreed to by three-fifths of the membership of each house of the legislature. The full text of the joint resolution and the vote of each member voting shall be entered on the journal of each house. The amendment will be presented for voter approval on the next general election ballot more than 90 days after the joint resolution is adopted.

Constitution Revision Commission

The Florida Constitution Revision Commission (FCRC) is defined in the Florida Constitution as an organization that is to meet once every twenty years to review Florida's Constitution and propose changes for voter consideration.

Each Constitution Revision Commission is charged with examining the state constitution, holding public hearings, and filing its proposal of a revision of the constitution, if any, not later than 180 days before the next general election.

The commission is to consist of 37 members, which will include:

  • the Attorney General
  • 15 members chosen by the Governor
  • 9 members chosen by the Speaker of the House
  • 9 members chosen by the President of the Senate
  • 3 members selected by the Chief Justice of the state Supreme Court (with the advice of the justices)

Governor shall designate one member as commission chair. Vacancies shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointments.

Taxation and Budget Reform Commission

Beginning in 2007 and each 20th year thereafter, the state constitution requires establishment of a Taxation and Budget Reform Commission composed of the following members:

  • 11 members, who cannot be members of the legislature when appointed, chosen by the Governor
  • 7 members chosen by the Speaker of the House
  • 7 members, who cannot be members of the legislature when appointed, chosen by the President of the Senate
  • 4 non-voting ex officio members, who shall be members of the legislature at the time of appointment. The Speaker of the House and the President of the Senate each choose two of these members, one of which must be a member of the minority party in their chamber.

Vacancies shall be filled in the same manner as the original appointments.

At its first meeting, the members of the commission shall elect its chair from its membership. Thereafter, the commission shall convene at the call of the chair. The chair cannot be a member of the legislature.

The commission is charges with examining the state budgetary process, the state's revenue needs and expenditure processes, the appropriateness of its tax structure, and governmental productivity and efficiency. The commission is instructed to hold public hearings as it deems necessary. A report of its findings and a proposal for any recommended statutory changes to the taxation or budgetary laws is to be issued by the commission to the legislature.

Two-thirds of the full commission must approve any revision of the constitution in order for it to be proposed by the commission. The Taxation and Budget Reform Commission is to file its proposal of a revision of the constitution dealing with taxation or the state budgetary process, if any, not later than 180 days before the general election in the second year following the commission's establishment.

The vote

Constitutional amendments must be approved by at least 60% of voters in order to pass. If an amendment is approved, it takes effect on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in January following the election, unless the amendment includes language specifying otherwise.

Prior to November 7, 2006, a simple majority vote was required to approve a new amendment to the Florida Constitution, regardless of whether the amendment was proposed by ballot initiative or through the legislatively-referred constitutional amendment process. On November 7, 2006, Floridians passed Amendment 3, 2006, which increased the required percentage for an amendment to be accepted into the constitution to 60%.

Legislative tampering

Main article: Legislative tampering

Constitutional amendments by initiative become part of the constitution and are thus only alterable by the legislature through regular constitutional procedures, any changes of which must be approved by popular vote.

Proposed changes

2011

Changes in 2011 to laws governing ballot measures

Bills that have or might be introduced in the 2011 session of the Florida State Legislature include:

2010

Changes in 2010 to laws governing ballot measures

These proposals were made during the 2009-2010 session of the Florida Legislature:


Campaign finance

Main article: Campaign finance requirements for Florida ballot measures

Some of the notable features of Florida's campaign finance laws include:

  • Florida treats most groups in support or opposition of a referendum the same like other political committees.
  • Florida has a separate registration status for groups solely funding advertisements through independent expenditures.
  • Florida bans groups that are designated as Electioneering Communications organizations to accept money from organizations that are listed as 501(c)4 or 527 by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
  • Florida has mandatory electronic reporting for campaign finance disclosure.
  • Florida uses a all-in-one electronic reporting system eliminating the need for paper forms.

External links

References