Rod Smith v. Democracy
Mark Piotrowski
January 2002

State Senator Rod Smith (D-Alachua) has introduced legislation that would limit the ability of Floridians to amend the Constitution. Senate Joint Resolution 940 would require constitutional amendments on the ballot to receive a 2/3 "supermajority" vote to pass, rather than the current standard of 50% plus one vote. Florida would join New Hampshire as the only states requiring a "supermajority" to amend the Constitution.

Amendments banning discrimination of people based on physical disability (1998), cleaning up the Everglades (1996), and providing for the election of County Commissioners in single-member districts (1984) would not have passed had a "supermajority" been required. The Joint Resolution would also create a legislative initiative process and require constitutional amendments to appear on the ballot with a fiscal impact statement. The resolution (and companion legislation in House of Representatives) must get a 3/5 vote in both houses, then would be placed on the 2002 ballot for Floridians to vote on.

Senator Smith has said that his concern is that too many constitutional amendments are making it onto the Florida ballot and that many of these issues simply do not belong in the Constitution which is a "framing document" (There are currently 8 amendments before the Florida Supreme Court for review). However requiring a 2/3 majority doesn't really keep them off, it simply raises the bar needed for passage. So-called "non-constitutional" issues, such as a ban on net fishing, still would have passed under a 2/3 majority.

To place an amendment on the ballot by citizen petition process, groups must collect 480,000 signatures. After the first 48,000 signatures, the amendment goes before the Supreme Court for review. There is no timetable set for this review process, which looks at clarity, constitutionality and that the amendment addresses a single subject.

The problem in Florida is not that we have too much democracy. Quite the contrary, it is that we don't have enough. Please contact Rod Smith's office and let him know that as his constiuent, you want him to protect and expand our democratic rights, not work to further restrict them.

You can contact Senator Smith's office by phone (375-3555) or email (smith.rod.web@leg.state.fl.us).

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