01 May 2005

Democracy to be abolished in Florida

According to politicians in Tallahassee and the Florida Chamber of Commerce, who carries great influence in the state capitol, the Florida Constitution is being destroyed by "special interests" who have hijacked the state document for their own purposes. The example that those who oppose direct democracy continue to cite is the "pregnant pigs amendment," the provision that passed in 2002 which prohibits the use of improper confinement of pregnant pigs. Now in order to prevent unnecessary provisions from finding their way into the state's governing document, big business is pushing their own series of amendments that will make it extremely difficult for voters to change the state constitution.

In reality, these restrictive measures are being advanced by the business community as retaliation for the minimum wage and the smoking ban amendment, as well as those high-priced items like class size and universal pre-kindergarten, which will interfere with corporate tax cuts and business subsidies. The Chamber and other business lobbyists have convinced a number of politicians that these drastic steps are necessary in order to protect the people of Florida from themselves. Let's see if the voters fall for it.

Senate Joint Resolution 4, sponsored by Senator Jim King (R-Jacksonville), would limit constitutional amendments that are proposed by citizens groups to only those issues already addressed in the state constitution. It is important to note that the majority of constitutional amendments that have been voted upon by the people of Florida have been placed on the ballot by the Florida Legislature themselves. Of course, those amendments advanced by the Legislature would not be affected by SJR 4. Only the amendments that originate with the people would face these unreasonable limits. How would this affect the people of Florida? If this standard had been in place in 2002 and 2004, the class size, universal pre-K, and minimum wage amendments would not have been eligible for the ballot and the voters would not have been allowed to make a decision on these important issues. The companion in the lower chamber, House Joint Resolution 1727, is sponsored by Representative David Simmons (R-Altamonte Springs). The Senate is scheduled to hear SJR 4 this Monday, May 2nd, and the House has already passed their version of the legislation with a vote of 88-27.

Senate Joint Resolution 6, again sponsored by Senator King, is another proposed amendment that would limit the voice of Florida's voters . This legislation would require a super-majority vote of sixty percent to pass a constitutional amendments instead of the current requirement of a simple majority vote. Like the previously discussed legislation, SJR 6 would have a negative affect on important issues in Florida. If this standard had previously been in place, the class size and universal pre-K amendments, along with the recent slot machines initiative, would have failed. The companion across the rotunda is House Joint Resolution 1723 and is also sponsored by Representative Simmons. The Senate will be considering SJR 6 on Monday, May 2nd, and the House has already passed HJR 1723 with a vote of 86-30.

These items, along with other legislation that would consolidate more power with the politicians in Tallahassee, are top priorities of the Republican leadership in the Florida Legislature. The Democrats, however, have not taken a position. Quite frankly, they should.

The initiative process, i.e., direct democracy, is the only opportunity for the voters of Florida to decide their future if they are saddled with an ineffective or unresponsive legislature. The Republican leadership has essentially locked out the issues that matter to middle-class voters and instead focused on the annual wish list from big business associations and corporate lobbyists.

Democrats are supposed to embrace the issues that empower the working people who make Florida great. Any Democrats who support these joint resolutions will not only disrespect the middle-class that they claim to represent, but they will dishonor the great Andrew Jackson, the Democratic Party's founding father who made them the Party of the People. When it comes time to vote, let's see if the Democrats remember their history.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hope that no Democrats will vote for these laws. Any that do are selling out the party.

4:26:00 PM  

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