Florida minimum wage initiative moves forward but still needs about 700,000 signatures to make the 2020 ballot

The Florida $15 Minimum Wage Initiative (#18-01) may appear on the ballot in Florida as an initiated constitutional amendment on November 3, 2020. The measure is backed by Florida For A Fair Wage, which is chaired by Florida lawyer John Morgan.
The measure would increase the minimum wage from $8.25 (2018) to:
$10.00 on September 30, 2021;
$11.00 on September 30, 2022;
$12.00 on September 30, 2023;
$13.00 on September 30, 2024;
$14.00 on September 30, 2025; and
$15.00 on September 30, 2026.
Thereafter, the minimum wage would increase or decrease each year based on changes in the Consumer Price Index for Urban Wage Earners and Clerical Workers (CPI-W).
The initiative was approved for circulation on January 10, 2018. To trigger a ballot language review by the state supreme court, 76,632 valid signatures from at least seven of Florida’s congressional districts are required. Morgan announced on January 22, 2019, that he was submitting more than 120,000 signatures to start that process.
To qualify for the ballot, a total of 766,200 valid signatures are required. The deadline for signatures to be certified by the Florida secretary of state in order to qualify initiated constitutional amendments for the 2020 Florida ballot was set by law to be February 1, 2020. Since state law gives the secretary of state 30 days to verify signatures, petitioners need to submit signatures on or before January 1, 2020, to guarantee that an initiative qualifies for the ballot in 2020.
Florida For a Fair Wage has raised $478,173.80 so far, with all but $15 coming from Morgan & Morgan law firm. The committee reported expenditures totaling $475,669.26, of which 88 percent was paid to AAP Holding Company for signature collection. The average cost of a successful initiative in Florida was $4.15 million in 2016 and $4.59 million in 2018. Morgan also sponsored Florida’s marijuana legalization measure (Amendment 2) of 2016. Morgan’s law firm gave $2.74 million to the People United for Medical Marijuana PAC, which John Morgan was also the chair of. It cost a total of $2.8 million to get the marijuana initiative on the 2016 ballot.
Proponents of another measure, the Florida Changes to Energy Market Initiative (#18-10), reported submitting around 60,000 preliminary signatures for their initiative to start the supreme court ballot language review process. The measure would declare that it is the policy of the state of Florida that “its wholesale and retail electricity markets be fully competitive so that electricity customers are afforded meaningful choices among a wide variety of competing electricity providers.” According to reports available as of January 16, 2019, Citizens for Energy Choice reported $1.14 million in contributions, all from Coalition for Energy Choice, Inc. The committee reported $574,080.39 in total expenditures. Of the total expenditures, $546,500 was expended to Ballot Access LLC and Linjen Corp for signature gathering.
The Florida initiative process at a glance:
1. Sponsors must register as a political committee with the Florida Division of Elections before submitting a petition.
2. The Division of Elections must ensure that the proposed initiative’s petition format meets statutory requirements (such as ensuring that the proposed ballot title and summary are within the word-count limits and other technical formatting requirements).
3. A serial number is assigned and sponsors may begin to gather signatures for their proposed measure.
4. Sponsors must submit 76,632 valid signatures (10% of the number of signatures required statewide coming from at least 7 of Florida’s congressional districts). Sponsors must pay 10 cents per signature or the actual cost of signature verification (whichever is less) at the time signatures are submitted before state officials begin verifying signatures. Sponsors may declare that paying for signature verification would be an undue burden on resources and request to have signatures verified at no charge, however, committees may not file an undue burden affidavit if the committee used paid signature gathering.
5. Once preliminary signatures are submitted and verified, the secretary of state will forward the petition to the attorney general who will petition to the state supreme court for an advisory opinion on whether or not the measure complies with the single-subject rule and whether or not the ballot title and summary are appropriate. Simultaneously, the petition is also sent by the secretary of state to the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FEIC) which prepares a fiscal analysis statement. The fiscal statement is also submitted to the supreme court for review and will appear on the ballot if the measure becomes certified.
6. A total of 766,200 valid signatures must be submitted and verified by February first of the target election year. Since state law gives the secretary of state 30 days to verify signatures, petitioners need to submit signatures on or before January 1 to guarantee that an initiative qualifies for the ballot. Florida, like many states, uses a random sample process or a full verification of signatures.
7. Amendments that are on the ballot, whether legislatively referred or citizen-initiated, require an approval vote of at least 60% to become law.