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Citizen initiatives will be harder to get on Florida ballot

May 7, 2021 GMT

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — Florida Republicans have succeeded in making it more difficult for voters to change the state constitution under a bill Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Friday.

The new law limits contributions by groups promoting ballot initiatives. Political committees seeking to change the constitution are now limited to $3,000 individual contributions until their proposal is approved for the ballot — a limit that could have made it impossible for medical marijuana and an increase in minimum wage to get before voters.

The bill passed in the House last month on a 75-40 vote, with Republicans arguing that it is needed to keep out-of-state special interest money from influencing the state constitution. Democrats argued that it was a blatant attempt by the GOP to squash voters’ rights to implement policy Republicans refuse to consider.

Medical marijuana was approved by voters in 2016 and a gradual increase of the minimum wage to $15 an hour was approved last year. Trial lawyer John Morgan, a Floridian, spent millions of dollars of his own money to get the items on the ballots. Republicans in the Legislature opposed those issues. Under the new law, Morgan would have been limited to $3,000 contributions on each issue until they made the ballot.

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It takes at least 60% support of votes cast to amend the constitution. It used to be a simple majority before Republicans under then-Gov. Jeb Bush pushed to increase the threshold. Since then, Republicans have enacted a number of policies to make it more difficult for citizens to pass a constitutional amendment.

Among other bills signed by DeSantis on Friday are measures that will:

— Amend a law requiring health care professionals provide patients with a printed pamphlet informing them about alternatives to opioids to also allow electronic copies of the same information.

— Tweak a law that bans riding bicycles without seats to make it clear that riders using bicycles designed not to have a seat, such as elliptical cycles, can’t be fined. The fine for riding a bicycle without a seat that is supposed to have one is between $15 and $56.50.

— Raise the minimum age to obtain tobacco products to 21 to match federal law. It also applies the same standard to vaping and prohibits anyone under 21 from smoking of vaping on or near school property.

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AP writer David Fischer in Miami contributed to this report.