Today’s Orlando Sentinel talks about the implications of Amendment 3, which requires a 60% vote to pass future amendments to Florida’s constitution. Of the six amendments on the ballot, Amendment 3 passed with the smallest margin 57.8% to 42.2%. Only one other amendment, Amendment 1, failed to get the 60% vote this year.
But what will happen in 2008?
Let’s consider the list of amendments that the Post considers the most likely to make the ballot.
Florida Marriage Protection Amendment
This could be an interesting twist on irony. Amendment 3 was pushed by a number of conservative business groups, led by the Florida Chamber of Commerce. However, in a state as divided Florida, the chances of a ban on gay marriage receiving 60%. To be sure, some states such as Tennessee and South Carolina saw amendments pass with 80% of the vote, while others such as Virginia and Wisconsin saw less than 60% approve. In fact, Arizona outright rejected their ban this year. Florida4Marriage will need to work very hard to get 60% of the voters to approve a ballot in a presidential election year.
Funding of Embryonic Stem Cell Research
Most Americans had not heard of Missouri’s stem cell research proposition until the Limbaugh-Fox controversy. It started when actor Michael J. Fox appeared in a commercial for Democrat Senate Candidate Claire McCaskill. Fox’s support was directly linked to Republican Senator Jim Tallent’s opposition to stem cell research. Conservative talk radio guru Rush Limbaugh, while talking about his thoughts on the commercial, also re-enacted Fox’s Parkinson’s-related twitches for his “Ditto-Cam” subscribers. Some pundits credit the controversy for the 51% – 49% victory for stem cell research. Two years earlier, a stem cell research proposition in California only managed a 59%-41% victory. Chances are slim to none that Floridians for Stem Cell Research and Cures can convince 60% of the voters to pass a stem cell amendment in Florida.
Sales Tax Reform
Former Florida Senate President John McKay has spearheaded Floridians Against Inequities in Rates (FAIR) to bring stronger reforms to Florida’s sales and use tax. He wants the Legislature to review periodically all sales tax exemptions, except those on “food; prescription drugs; health services; and residential rent, electricity and heating fuel.” He began his efforts as Senate President, but the Florida House refused to take up his measures. There are three initiatives being pushed: one would establish the Legislative review, one would require all exemptions to have a statement of public purpose, and the last would require the Legislature to review services that are exempt from tax. FAIR will have to re-do their petitions, however, because there are problems with the effective date. (FAIR had hoped to be on 2006 ballot, and so has a 2008 effective date in one or more of the petitions). Whether these amendments could reach the 60% level is unclear at best.
In the 1980′s, the Republican Party had proposed changing the way Florida establishes the districts for the state legislature and Congress, removing the Florida Legislature and creating an independent commission. At the time, Democrats refused to change. In the late 1990′s, after Republicans took control of the Legislature, the Democrats proposed the same thing, and Republicans refused.
Now there are two initiatives being proposed. The first would establish an independent commission. This proposal had to be re-worked because they would have failed to meet the limitation of a 75-word summary. The second initiative would establish the criteria for redistricting. We believe if this makes the ballot it will receive a majority of the votes, but will it get to 60%? The Committee for Fair Representation will have its work cut out.
Voter Approved Land Use Plans
The last amendment that could likely be on the 2008 ballot is one that would require voter approval of changes to the comprehensive plan. This would require local governments to put all changes to existing comprehensive land use plans, or the adoption of a new plan, to the voters before they can go into effect. Voters in St. Pete Beach approved changes to their City Charter that require voter approval of land use changes, but the vote was barely a majority. Chances are slim that the Hometown Democracy PAC can get 60% of the vote.
It will be interesting to see whether these groups continue pushing their efforts, or if they decide that the 60% bar is just too high.
UPDATE: Correction made with thanks to The Florida Masochist.