Florida Realtors suspends initiative campaign after making compromise deal with state legislators

By Jackie Mitchell

On Sept. 7, 2021, Floridians for Housing, a ballot initiative committee sponsored by the Florida Realtors, said they were suspending their campaign. The initiative would have created state and local government housing trust funds to “address affordable housing access and availability, including funding of programs addressing new construction, down payment and closing cost assistance, rehabilitation, and financing for affordable housing development.”

According to campaign finance reports covering information through Aug. 31, the Florida Realtors had contributed $13 million to the committee. The committee reported $2.75 million in expenditures. As of Sept. 8, the Florida Division of Elections website said the group had submitted 65,018 valid signatures. To qualify for the ballot, sponsors would have needed to submit 891,589 valid signatures by Feb. 1, 2022.

Florida Realtors President Cheryl Lambert said that the campaign would work with legislative leaders on laws to address affordable housing instead of the ballot initiative. Lambert said, “The legislative leadership has committed to working with us to find significant, immediate solutions to Florida’s workforce housing crisis. This crisis cannot wait. Every day, we hear about workers who are bearing the brunt of the pandemic who can’t afford a home. This approach will help bring homeownership within reach of Floridians much faster.”

Senate President Wilton Simpson (R) and House Speaker Chris Sprowls (R) said, “We commend the decision by the Florida Realtors to suspend their ballot initiative. As we have seen in recent months, the housing market is extremely fluid, and fluctuates based on a variety of factors, which are outside of the Legislature’s control. Constitutional amendments, while instrumental in defining the ideals of the framework of our state government, do not provide the flexibility needed to respond to the ever-changing housing situation in Florida. Legislative solutions derived from the input and expertise of the entire coalition of stakeholders and experts who work on housing-related issues remain the best way to address housing challenges that impact families across our state.”

Committee meetings ahead of the 2022 legislative session were set to begin on Sept. 20, 2021. The legislative session was set to begin on Jan. 11 and run through March 11, 2022.

Ballotpedia is tracking 24 potential initiatives targeting Florida’s 2022 ballot. As of Sept. 8, seven of the initiative campaigns had zero valid signatures submitted. For the other 17 campaigns, the number of valid signatures on file ranged from two at the least, to 9,347 at the most, collected by Florida Voters in Charge, sponsors of an initiative to expand casino gaming in Florida.

Proposed measures are reviewed by the state attorney general and state supreme court after proponents collect 25% of the required signatures across the state in each of one-half of the state’s congressional districts (222,898 signatures for 2022 ballot measures). After these preliminary signatures have been collected, the secretary of state must submit the proposal to the Florida Attorney General and the Financial Impact Estimating Conference (FIEC). The attorney general is required to petition the Florida Supreme Court for an advisory opinion on the measure’s compliance with the single-subject rule, the appropriateness of the title and summary, and whether or not the measure “is facially valid under the United States Constitution.” To qualify for the ballot, sponsors must submit 891,589 valid signatures, which must be verified by election officials by Feb. 1, 2022. Signatures equaling at least 8% of the district-wide vote in the last presidential election must be collected from at least half (14) of the state’s congressional districts.

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