| Florida has five ways in which an amendment may be proposed to our State’s Constitution. Regardless of how they are proposed, all amendments must be voted upon and passed with a minimum of 60% of the vote. The first, and most common method is the passage of a joint resolution by a 3/5 majority of each chamber. The second method is through the Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC), whose members are appointed by the Governor, Speaker of the House, President of the Senate, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General. The CRC meets every twenty years to review the Constitution and to suggest proposals, if any. They are next scheduled to meet in 2017-2018. The third method is through citizens’ initiative. A measure is placed on the ballot when proposers have collected, and the State has verified, the signatures of 8% of the number of voters in the most recent presidential election. For 2014, 683,149 signatures were needed to place an amendment on the ballot. This year all three amendments were placed on the ballot by either citizens’ initiative or by a joint resolution of the Florida Legislature.Fourthly, the Taxation and Budget Reform Commission can place an amendment on the ballot. This Commission meets every ten years, and is next scheduled to convene in 2017-18. The final, and most unlikely method, is that citizens may call for a Constitutional Convention. This method would require a voter referendum as to whether a convention should be called. The number of petitions required to place the referendum on the ballot is 15% of the previous presidential election voters.
This election has three proposed amendments. Analysis of Amendment 1 follows.
Amendment 1, Water & Land Conservation
This citizens’ initiative is led by Florida’s Water & Land Legacy, which is a coalition of conservation and civic organizations, businesses and citizens. As of October 10th, the group has raised over $5 million and spent over $3.7 million. The amendment would require 33% of the net revenue collected from the documentary stamp tax to go toward the Land Acquisition Trust Fund. The monies collected would be expended to acquire and improve conservation easements, wildlife management areas, wetlands, forests, fish and wildlife habitats, beaches and shores, recreational trails and parks, urban open space, rural landscapes, working farms and ranches, historical and geological sites, lands protecting water and drinking water resources and lands in the Everglades Agricultural Areas and the Everglades Protection Area.
A YES vote would (1) provide long term conservation funding; (2) not require legislative approval to budget funds annually; and (3) improve Florida’s public recreational and conservation lands.
A NO vote would (1) allow the Legislature to make decisions annually as to the amount set aside for conservation; and (2) allow the Legislature to determine where approved funding will be spent on conservation.