The State of Sunshine will be giving some analysis of the various amendments on the ballot this year, to give readers a little more information before voting.
We’re starting with what we think is the most controversial, Amendment #3.
Proposes an amendment to Section 5 of Article XI of the State Constitution to require that any proposed amendment to or revision of the State Constitution, whether proposed by the Legislature, by initiative, or by any other method, must be approved by at least 60 percent of the voters of the state voting on the measure, rather than by a simple majority. This proposed amendment would not change the current requirement that a proposed constitutional amendment imposing a new state tax or fee be approved by at least 2/3 percent of the voters of the state voting in the election in which such an amendment is considered.
The full text of the amendment can be viewed from the Division of Elections website in a PDF format. Florida Tax Watch, a supporter of the Amendment, provides a thorough – if biased – analysis of the amendment (PDF).
Two groups have been organized on this Amendment: Protect Our Constitution, in support, and Trust the Voters, in opposition. Both websites give their spin on the issue, making it a challenge to get a clear picture on this amendment. We at The State of Sunshine do not portend to have the best analysis, but we want to provide some additional points to consider.
Quite simply, many special interest groups do not like the way initiatives have passed in recent years. The ‘poster child’ for bad amendments is the so-called “pregnant pig” amendment from 2002. Others such as the since-repealed High Speed Rail amendment, the class-size reduction amendment, the voluntary pre-kindergarten amendment, and the smoke-free workplace amendment are also listed as problems with the initiative process.
Here is the crux of the issue. Constitutions are designed to be, according to some, the overarching guiding document that embodies the will of the people to institute governments that protect our rights. The structure of our governments and the express rights of the people — these are the kinds of things that belong in a Constitution. Proponents say that anything beyond these limited areas should not be in our Constitution.
We, the people of the State of Florida, being grateful to Almighty God for our constitutional liberty, in order to secure its benefits, perfect our government, insure domestic tranquility, maintain public order, and guarantee equal civil and political rights to all, do ordain and establish this constitution.- Preamble to the Florida Constitution
We at the State of Sunshine have a different perspective. Bearing in mind that the sovereignty of the state is vested in the people of Florida. By establishing a constitution, they vest some of that sovereignty into a republican form of government. However, the existence of a representative democracy does not mean the people do not retain any sovereignty. To the contrary, the people have spelled out exactly how they can exercise that sovereignty in the Constitution, by electing representatives or by amending the Constitution.
Of those newspapers who have written their opinion on this issue, only the Florida Times Union has supported passage of the Amendment. The Tampa Tribune, St. Petersburg Times, Naples Daily News, Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald, Sarasota Herald Tribune, and the Treasure Coast/Palm Newspapers all oppose the amendment. (Links to the editorials can be found in The State of Sunshine’s General Election Newspaper Endorsements post). In addition, both Charlie Crist and Jim Davis oppose the amendment, saying the Constitution belongs to the people (Crist) and that majority rule is fundamental to our democracy (Davis).
In the blogosphere, Change in Tallahassee and Pushing Rope both oppose the amendment as well. Although they oppose the amendment for purely political grounds, rather than philosophical grounds, they raise some additional points to consider.
The fact that so many people oppose the amendment should give voters reason enough to question those who support the amendment. The supporters almost all come from the business community – including a large number of Chambers of Commerce. Another reason to think strongly before voting on this amendment.
One last point, The State of Sunshine understands that some provisions clearly do not belong in the Constitution. However, we firmly believe that passing Amendment 3 will abdicate too much of the people’s rights. If the Legislature had the courage to include a “Statutory Initiative” process while limiting the amendment process, we would wholeheartedly support both amendments.
The initiative process allows the people to get around an unresponsive legislature held captive by a small minority. Raising the standard allows that minority to broaden their control to include the initiative process as well. That is not a good thing. The Legislature needs to re-think this proposal and come back with one that protects the rights of the people better than this.
Therefore, the State of Sunshine recommends voting NO on Amendment 3.