The Republican-controlled Florida legislature might have actually gotten themselves back into the good graces of a lot of gun owners with a last-minute bill. As we have been reported, Ban Assault Weapons NOW! is attempting to get an “assault weapons” ban on the 2020 ballot through the initiative petition process. It appears they might have now hit a roadblock.
There were two bills originally submitted this legislative session, HB 7111 and SB 7096. They were mirror bills that would require paid petition gatherers to register with the Secretary of State and to attest that he or she is a Florida resident for a specified period before obtaining signatures on petition forms. The bills also required the name of the sponsor of an initiative to appear on the ballot with the percentage of donations received from certain in-state donors. Finally, the bills prohibited compensation for initiative petition gatherers based on the number of signatures gathered.
If passed, the law would have gone into effect immediately for any initiative meant for the 2020 ballot. However both bills died in committee on May 3rd.
Yet on the last day of session, the very day that both bills died, another avenue of advancement presented itself. HB 5, a local discretionary sales surtax bill. Opponents of the AWB tacked the language on as an amendment and HB 5 which passed both the House and Senate and is now on its way to Gov. DeSantis’ desk.
The full bill is here and the a breakdown of parts that apply to the initiative petition process follows:
- Petition gatherers cannot be paid per petition signature commission.
- They must be actual employees paid on a regular payroll as a regular employee.
- They can’t collect signatures for a bounty.
- Petition gatherers must be Florida residents for an established period of time. They cannot be out-of-state individuals.
- Petition gatherers must register with the Florida Secretary of State as official petition gatherers and must provide their address and sign a sworn affidavit stating the following; “By my signature below, as petition circulator, I verify that the petition was signed in my presence. Under penalties of perjury, I declare that I have read the foregoing Petition Circulator’s Affidavit and the facts stated in it are true.“
- The Organization must provide a economic impact report to the Secretary of State and if the report shows any negative impact, ballot must include a statement indicating such estimated effect in bold font.
- Any petition collected has a 30 day period from the date of signature to be turned into the County Supervisor of Election’s Office. They cannot stockpile them. Every petition turned in after 30 days shall be fined up to $500.
- Out of State Firms are barred from organizing and funding Petition Initiatives and name of sponsors of an initiative to appear on the ballot with the percentage of donations received from certain in-state donors.
- This goes into immediate effect the most the Governor signs it into law or if the 15 days pass of no action by the Governor and it automatically becomes law.
In plain English, this largely blocks out-of-state money unless they organize and incorporate in Florida, hire established Floridians with in-state address, register them as official petition gatherers, pay them a salary rather than a commission, and fines them for submitting late signatures.
The usual model, used in a number of other states, involved out-of-state money used to hire college students to collect signatures with a per-signature bounty, or have an army of out-of-state petition collectors swoop into the state.
It looks like BAWN! and Americans for Gun Safety Now are going to have to re-work their entire AstroTurfed model since they aren’t in compliance. That puts a major crimp on their operation unless they can figure out a way around the law.