Paul Jacob

Alternatively, legislators could put these amendments right back on the ballot for more debate and a new vote. If voters have disastrously missed the mark, why not try again? So far, legislators have not bothered. Or dared.

Bad Medicine

The cure, as espoused by the politicians and the Chamber of Commerce, doesn't have any connection to the stated problem. Of the much-ballyhooed blizzard of 95 amendments, only 16 came through the citizen initiative process. The overwhelming majority of amendments were referred to the ballot by the Legislature.

Funny then, that the proposed solution is to raise the bar so high for future citizen initiatives as to render the process moot, effectively restoring a legislative monopoly on lawmaking. One legislative proposal, which has already passed a Senate committee, would require a 60 percent vote to pass any citizen-initiated constitutional amendment. Yet, an amendment proposed by legislators would only require a simple majority. Hmmm?

Opponents of initiatives make much fuss about one measure, an initiative that banned gestation crates for pregnant pigs. They tell us that this measure "made its way" into the constitution. But amendments don't "make their way" anywhere. Floridians voted this measure into their constitution.

And after all, they had little choice. Many might agree that their goal would have been better attained by statute than by amending the state constitution. But Florida's initiative process, unlike most states', allows only constitutional amendments, not the enactment of statutes.

The Legislature could solve the entire dilemma by allowing a statutory process. Again, oddly, the legislators and the Chamber of Commerce refuse even to consider this common-sense solution.

Instead, all focus is on destroying the citizen initiative process. And spinning whoppers to do it.

Minority or Majority Rule?

The anti-initiative crowd has had a lot of fun ignoring the ever-so-subtle difference between majority rule and minority rule. They prefer minority rule--supposing they will comprise that ruling minority, of course. They designed their 60 percent threshold for passing an initiative to allow powerful, well-heeled interests to defeat popular measures by simply throwing enough negative ads at them to bring their support down to 59.9 percent.

That sounds like minority rule, doesn't it?

Yet, Florida TaxWatch, a group comprised of all the same interests behind the state Chamber, came up with a unique angle to attack the initiative process for allowing minority rule. Seems if you compare votes for initiatives to the number of all registered voters, not just those actually going to the polls to vote, many measures don't garner a majority of all registered voters. Egads!

As the group's news release stated, "Turnout of registered voters has been as low as 58 percent in non-presidential years and frequently less than 85 percent of those voters actually vote on constitutional amendments that are placed before them." If you do the math, an initiative could win with 100 percent of the vote and still not manage a "majority."

By this same logic, Ronald Reagan garnered an "illegitimate minority" in the 1984 presidential race, while winning 49 of 50 states in modern history's biggest landslide.

Nice try.

The Miami Herald urges support for changes to the initiative process, writing, "Without change, our Constitution will become weighted down with costly, emotionally driven mandates that retard good government. Think California."

Funny. Floridians are expected to deliberate on the negatives of the voter initiative through analyzing a state clear across the country, of which they have little if any firsthand knowledge. Perhaps the Florida elite fear the voters might get too "emotional" if told the boo-boos they are making right at home in Florida.

By the way, my Common Sense e-letter concentrates on the boo-boos committed quite regularly by politicians around the country, not just in Florida and California.

Voter Stay Home

In politics--like good comedy--timing is everything. So, at which election will legislators seek to place these anti-voter measures before the voters? Why not the election with the most partisan and least total voters? The Chamber and legislators seek a vote in the partisan August 31 primary, not the general election, meaning almost 2 million independents won't likely come to the polls.

The politicians, with the help of the sharks at the Chamber of Commerce, are telling tall tales to take the initiative away from the people--and just when you thought it was safe to go back into a Florida voting booth.


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.