Paul Jacob

Majority rule. Within constitutional limits for the protection of individual freedom, it’s the American way.

But in Florida, legislators and powerful special interests would like to change that. They want to win elections when they get the most votes, sure. But they also want to win when they don’t get the most votes. They want to win even when they lose.

Hmmm: does that seem quite right?

In the land of hanging chads, where every vote should count, we find political insiders intent on lynching the state’s voter initiative process. How? By making some votes (specifically, NO votes) count more than others (YES votes). Amendment 3 on Florida’s ballot this November will require a 60 percent supermajority of the vote to pass an initiative, instead of the current, well-established practice of majority rule.

The amendment was placed on the ballot by legislators, who loathe the state’s voter initiative for allowing citizens to bypass the tangled web of Tallahassee politics run by (you guessed it) these same legislators. Whispering urgent encouragement in legislative ears was the Florida Chamber of Commerce — a group, like most Chambers throughout the country, that loves high taxes, opposes voters’ initiative rights, and snuggles up to politicians by working again and again to undermine voter-enacted term limits (more on this later).

Who else supports Amendment 3? A long list of the state’s most powerful lobbying organizations in Tallahassee: U.S. Sugar, BlueCross, BlueShield, Publix, TECO Energy, and the Florida Association of Realtors.

Want to know the stated goal of this Chamber-led cabal of the capitol’s biggest special interests and their push for Amendment 3? To stop special interest influence in the voter initiative process. They have trained themselves to say this with a straight face. Well, shame has never been their strong suit. Can you say “effrontery”?

Amendment 3 will indeed make it tougher for special interests to pursue a voter initiative. But the big boys have their hooks into legislators and their castles built in Tallahassee. The last thing they want to do is allow the voters to decide the issues they care about. They support Amendment 3 precisely because it will make it incredibly tough for grassroots efforts. Citizen-initiated reforms will rarely be able to raise the needed money to get an initiative campaign off the ground, much less win it, what with potential donors knowing full-well that the state’s entrenched political interests can defeat the measure simply by throwing enough money and negative ads against it to pull it down to 59 percent support.

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.