Citizen ballot measures and initiatives are one of the few ways Americans in some states have to make laws, circumventing their corrupt legislatures. In Florida, citizens have passed laws that corporations do not like. One amendment banned the use of large commercial gill nets that had been wiping out vast schools of game fish while indiscriminately killing other species, including turtles. Legislators serving commercial fishing interests had refused to take action. The supermarket chain Publix and the Florida Chamber of Commerce were angry about a 2004 amendment raising the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour -- something their lackeys in the legislature had refused to do. Legislators refused to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, so health care groups took their case to the people in 2002. And Floridians banned public smoking.
Though there is considerable opposition to Amendment 3, voters may get suckered by claims of "reform" being made by corporate interests. The bad guys have been spending millions of dollars and use a website ProtectOurConstitution.org, designed to deceive citizens. A Chamber of Commerce official said "Florida businesses will be much better protected from the unintended consequences of these cleverly packaged, frivolous and often extremely costly ballot initiatives." Yup, direct democracy is a real threat to all the corrupt corporate interests screwing the public.
In support of less democracy, here is a lie from the head of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation: "We need to return the ballot initiative process to the citizens of Florida."
Their efforts may be working. Earlier this month it was reported that a Miami Herald/Zogby poll found that Floridians favor the amendment, with 67% backing it, 27% opposing it, and only 6% undecided. If Floridians spit on democracy this November, the victory will motivate corporate interests to attack it elsewhere. So this Florida battle has consequences for the rest of the country.
It is important to note that Florida lawmakers have refused to let citizens pass statutory laws; only constitutional amendments can be made by ballot initiative. So you can't blame the public for messing around so much with the state's constitution.
"People need to see this for what it is: It's a power grab by the Legislature and wealthy interests," said Ben Wilcox, a lobbyist for Florida Common Cause. "It's an effort to limit the ability of citizens to use the initiative process to effect change."
Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat, said: "Democracy is government of, by and for the people. There is no more fundamental way in which people can directly participate than Florida's citizen initiatives." He also noted that Amendment 3 "would strangle the people's rights."
The Florida ACLU properly observed: "Amendment 3 was placed on the ballot by state politicians at the behest of insider lobby groups who want to take power away from ordinary Floridians and keep it all in Tallahassee. If Amendment 3 passes, lawmakers will continue their campaign to crush citizen involvement in government."
A former Republican member of the state house, Bill Sublette, said: "Floridians have a simple choice Nov. 7. They can either vote to trust the politicians, lobbyists, and special interests by voting for Amendment 3, or they can vote to trust the people by voting against Amendment 3. I say trust the people. "
Paul Jacob of Americans for Limited Government commented: "Sadly, and dangerously, the politicians and special interests behind Amendment 3 don't believe that government belongs to the people. They believe government belongs to them. "
Tell your friends and relatives in Florida how important it is to vote NO on Amendment 3 next month. This is not just a battle for democracy in Florida.
This is all about saving American democracy what little of it remains.