The INSIDER Column

If We Are Changing the Constitution, Change It Smartly

In November we passed 11 of 12 amendments to our Florida Constitution.  For the most part, we as the electorate were stupid on these measures.  I say that with some angst, but the results of that election can tell us nothing else.  We passed things that have no business being in the Constitution and we passed things that were bundled together with other things that have nothing to do with each other.

Fortunately there are companion measures in both houses of the legislature that will alleviate some of the nonsense.  The problem is that these identical proposals do not go far enough in rectifying the problem.  What is proposed is raising the threshold for passage of a constitutional amendment to 2/3 of the votes cast for passage.  It’s a good start.

Sadly, the electorate has shown time and time again that we often don’t understand the contents of the amendment nor the impact it will have on Florida.  We place things in our constitution that don’t belong there- things that are best enacted by law in the legislature than by the direct democracy an amendment offers.  The 60% threshold is far too low when bad ideas often have out of state political agenda supporters with money to promote passage and virtually no opposing groups that are equally funded.

But raising the threshold to 67% is also not a complete answer to the hatchet job we perform on the constitution every other year or so.  In order to keep the constitution clean and performing as a guiding document instead of an avenue for direct lawmaking the proposal needs modified to include the following:

*Each proposed amendment, no matter how initiated (currently 3 ways: the legislature, the Constitution Revision Commission every 20 years and citizen initiative or petition) must be restricted to one subject only thereby eliminating the “bundling” that the CRC hoisted on the voters in the last election 

*All amendments must be related to form and function of government only and not be essentially allowing citizen or other amendments to create law by direct democracy 

*That the percentage of votes for passage be from the total number of ballots cast statewide, not only those choosing to vote on a particular amendment.  In other words, the 67% for passage must be affirmative on 67% of the ballots cast, not of the votes on a particular amendment. 

*An exception for ballot measures passed before the enactment of this provision whereby those amendments passed by a 60% margin only require 60% margin to alter or repeal 

*Creation of a Referendum process whereby citizen petition may require the legislature to create law regarding specified one issue subjects that the legislature has ignored or not considered as the electorate feels they should.  Thus law would be kept in the lawmaking process and the constitution maintains its role as directing form and function of government. 

If any or all of these ideas make it to the final proposal it will be stronger than what is currently offered and it would go a long way toward rectifying the severe wrong we do ourselves by constantly amending our constitution when passing law would be a far better method.

I’m not going to hold my breath, but I will sure recommend it to legislators as they consider the change.

title

Content Goes Here