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Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis supported making it harder to get amendments on the ballot.

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Joe Henderson: Good luck getting Florida amendments on ballot now

Republicans know they have all but ensured that nothing they oppose will become law

Oh, those pesky citizen petition drives to get Florida amendments on the ballot. Imagine the nerve of those people actually wanting a voice in making the laws of this state. Just who do they think they are?

I guess they don’t understand how it works. Although the last several gubernatorial elections showed our state is nearly a 50-50 divide, everyone knows that the Legislature only carries out the Republican agenda.

Hence, the action by Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis to sign a bill that will make amendments harder and more expensive to get on the ballot.

His official reason is that voters had too many amendments to consider last November. There were 13 such measures, and 12 of them passed. Not that it mattered in every case. When voters approved the restoration of voting rights for felons who had served their sentences, GOP lawmakers figured a way around that.

That’s one of their skills.

I mean, have we forgotten what they did with the Lottery? Nearly 75 percent of voters approved it in 1986. A lot of them, be honest, just wanted a lottery. But doubters were encouraged by the promise that 38 percent of the proceeds would go to enhance the state’s education budget.

It didn’t take long for lawmakers to redirect state money to pet projects at the expense of the education budget because, hey, we have all this lottery money! I guess they didn’t read the fine print about enhancing the budget. Or just ignored it. So now we have a lottery, and public schools budgets are strained to the breaking point. Maybe if they promised the proceeds would go to charter schools, it would have been different.

Voters also approved medical marijuana in 2016, but then-Gov. Rick Scott and cohorts kept erecting roadblocks to its availability and use. At least DeSantis, praise be, said that subverted the will of the people.

Well, OK.

Except now the Governor helped champion this drive to stifle Florida amendments, which means in many cases people won’t get to express their will at the ballot box.

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It’s just a coincidence (cough, cough) that Orlando Attorney John Morgan has been working on a drive to raise the minimum hourly wage to $15 by 2026.

Morgan has vowed to continue the fight.

What Republicans have done, and they know this, is all but ensure that nothing they oppose will become law. That might be good politics, but it’s lousy governance.

Even though the GOP dominated Tallahassee for the last 20 years, the margin in the last three gubernatorial elections was about 1 percent. Scott won his U.S. Senate seat by a similar edge over Bill Nelson.

But even in an evenly divided state, Republicans operate as if their vision is all that matters. DeSantis said that the state constitution was becoming more about policy than bedrock law. Maybe that’s true.

But Florida constitutional amendments were the only way the opposition could get things into law. It took 60 percent approval for those issues to pass, and even then Republicans either said pfft (the 2014 land and water conservation amendment) or, ahem, “clarified” them (felon voting rights).

I guess it’s just easier to stop these things before they start. Why take chances?

Written By

I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

5 Comments

5 Comments

  1. Darla Huddleston

    June 9, 2019 at 9:34 pm

    We live in Republic not a Democracy. That means we have a representative form of government. We the people elect the legislators who then make the laws. These amendments process is ridiculous, usually backed by big money with expensive, emotion charged ads rather then sound debate and fact. Don’t think so? Check out the portion of our Florida constitution dealing with pig farrowing crates. Yes it’s in there and it’s that ridiculous.

    • Thomas

      June 10, 2019 at 11:11 am

      Darla – good luck getting Joe (or most anyone these days) to understand the difference between us being a republic and not a democracy.

  2. Nicholas

    June 10, 2019 at 11:12 am

    Constitutions should be hard to amend…otherwise you wind up with whatever “whims” the dumb-masses want at that moment.

  3. Palatka Patty

    June 10, 2019 at 4:12 pm

    This is all about a continuing power grab by state Republicans. And any fool can see that. Furthermore, undermining the will of the people isn’t representative of a democratic OR even republican form of government: it in fact more closely resembles a dictatorship.

    These pro-Republican comments are ridiculous. I mean, how does one who claims to be a patriot feel comfortable endorsing a government that totally ignores the will of the people?

    Take an honest look at what’s going on in Florida today: Republicans are using the state constitution as a kickball.

    Its deeply troubling, appalling, and very-undemocratic.

    • Edward

      June 10, 2019 at 7:01 pm

      I totally agree with Palatka Patty.

      An elected legislature can trample on a man’s rights as easily as a dictator can.

      Darla Huddleston, Thomas, and Nicholas are all just republicans who don’t like the constitutional amendments they were passed by the majority of voters in Florida. Well too bad.

      If you bothered to read the Florida Constitution you would find out that the the power of “the people” being able to make amendments directly to the Florida constitution without any involvement by the legislature is part of our republican form of government.

      ARTICLE X SECTION 3-Initiative states in pertinent part: “The power to propose the revision or amendment of any portion or portions of this constitution by initiative is reserved to the people” Did you get that last part? Reserved to the people.

      Thomas, Aren’t elections supposed to be won by the majority of your so-called “dumb-masses”? I’m certain I read that somewhere.
      How is a president elected? By a majority of voters. How are senators and representatives elected? By a majority of voters. How is a proposed amendment passed? By a majority of voters.

      Republican are not patriots. They are nothing but facists. Racists. And religious fanatics. They want to be dictators, not representatives of the people.

      Republican politicians were elected only because of gerrymandering and voter suppression. The republican’s days of being in power are numbered.

      Go to the Florida Division of Election website and look at the current number of republicans: 4,719,103. Compare that to the number of registered Democrats: 4,962,086. Democrats have a 242,983.00 majority, almost a quarter of a million majority. In 2020 Republicans will begin to fall like dominoes due to the vote of the majority and all stinking republican legislature will be repealed.

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