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Survey says voters favor tougher initiative process

By Associated Press
Published January 16, 2004

TALLAHASSEE - Business groups trying to make it harder for people to use petition drives to change the Florida Constitution have released results of a telephone survey showing that voters support restrictions.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce, which paid for the survey, and the Florida Retail Federation joined with other critics of the current citizen initiative process to form the VoteSmartFlorida.org Alliance.

The group will campaign for changes to make it harder to amend the Constitution by petition drive, according to Fred Leonhardt, an Orlando attorney who chairs the chamber's board of directors.

The alliance will push state lawmakers to set a special election this summer to raise the threshold for approval of citizen initiatives.

Currently, proposed constitutional amendments on the ballot are approved by a simple majority of voters - 50 percent plus one. The alliance wants to raise the threshold to a two-thirds majority.

Sixty percent of 800 likely voters questioned last month in a random telephone survey support that change, according to the alliance.

To get a proposed amendment on the ballot, petitioners must collect half a million signatures. The measure also must pass muster by the state Supreme Court, which decides whether it is clearly described and deals with one subject only.

The process of circumventing the Legislature and taking amendments directly to voters is overused and is "no longer really benefiting the citizens themselves but the special interests," said Jerry Maygarden, chair of the chamber's Legislative Policy Council.

Damien Filer, a spokesman for the class size reduction campaign, which voters approved in November 2002, said he doesn't think voters will approve making it harder to change the Constitution. He dismissed the criticism about special interests hijacking the initiative process.

[Last modified January 16, 2004, 01:33:00]


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