Paul Jacob

Cozying up to Florida legislators, the Florida Chamber of Commerce is agitating to take initiative rights away from Florida voters.

Otherwise, the Chamber warns, disaster is at hand. Those wild and crazy Florida voters will amend their state's constitution with such reckless abandon that businesses will flee, leaving Florida bankrupt. (Ignore all the people and businesses flocking to Florida these days. It spoils the Chamber's story.)

According to the Chamber, Florida voters should be put in their place, voting only for their betters, paying their taxes, keeping quiet.

Never mind hanging chads; the Chamber lobbyists are trying to hang the voters. Their rallying cry might as well be: "Disempower the voters now, before it's too late."

Voters, Out of Control!

The Chamber of Commerce bemoans that Florida's state constitution has been amended 95 times since 1970. True enough, the number 95 is a large one; certainly larger than 94, for instance. All right, sure, 95 amendments in 30-plus years does seem like a lot.

But what is the harm? Did voters amend the constitution in 95 ways they now regret? Or just in ways the Chamber regrets?

Democracy--the whole idea of citizen controlled government--has a glaring weakness: sometimes voters don't vote our way. It's a recurring problem. Still, the problems associated with a lack of citizen control remain far more dangerous. One doesn't need blind faith in the people to support citizen initiative and referendum--just more faith than one has in the politicians. Talk about a low bar.

It's true that Florida voters aren't perfect. They've passed tax limits and term limits, good. But they've also approved a few expensive whoppers, like a bullet train and an amendment mandating smaller class size in public schools. Like a member in good standing of the Chamber of Commerce, I would have voted against both of these costly measures. But the people of Florida voted for both.

So what to do? The state legislature and Governor Jeb Bush have refused to comply with the state's constitution--as amended by those pesky voters--so thus far these measures haven't cost taxpayers a dime. But government officials have a duty to follow the law, especially the state's highest law, and some day they just might.


Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.