Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Romano: Keeping lawmakers (relatively) honest with amendments

Let's see, we have 160 lawmakers representing us in Tallahassee.

We've also sent a hefty congressional delegation to Washington, D.C., along with all the senators and representatives from 49 other states.

And guess what?

It's not enough.

The truth is, you and I are the legislators of last resort.

Voters in Florida, and a lot of other states, are flexing their muscles when it comes to ballot initiatives.

Whether it's caused by partisan politics or out-of-control campaign financing, voters are weary of gridlock. And so they're skipping the middle man and changing public policy directly at the ballot box.

We saw it Tuesday when residents got tired of waiting for Tallahassee to pick up the pace on medical marijuana and overwhelmingly voted to expand its availability.

Voters also refused to follow the Legislature's lead of rolling over and playing dead for utility companies, and squashed another amendment that would have stymied solar power expansion.

And Florida is not alone.

Voters in four states passed minimum wage increases Tuesday. Two other states voted to increase the tax rate on wealthy residents. Two states whacked charter school expansion initiatives backed by their respective governors. Voters in four states approved recreational marijuana use, and three more passed medical marijuana plans.

That's a lot of lawmaking at the community level.

"The narrative most closely tracked on Tuesday is that people voted for change,'' said Josh Hoxie of the progressive Institute for Policy Studies. "And they didn't have confidence that the people running for office could deliver these initiatives for them.''

What's interesting is voters seem less partisan when it comes to amendments.

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were fewer than two points apart in Florida, and yet the medical marijuana amendment won 71-29.

You saw similar results in Arizona, where conservatives went for Trump, and yet a minimum wage increase was passed. In Maine, they re-elected uber conservative Gov. Paul LePage and still passed a minimum wage increase, approved medical marijuana and raised taxes.

Reliably progressive Oregon went big for Clinton, and yet failed to approve a ballot measure that would have raised corporate tax rates.

The point is voters are playing a more direct role in the checks and balances of state governments.

In the last dozen years, Florida has been ruled almost exclusively by the GOP, and yet voters have passed amendments that Republicans have not typically supported, such as medical marijuana, conservation funds, fairer legislative redistricting and a minimum wage adjustment escalator.

"What it says is if you break down individual issues and take away the day-to-day partisan nonsense, there are a lot of progressive issues broadly supported in Florida,'' said Ben Pollara, who was the driving force behind Florida's medical marijuana amendment. "So much gets caught up and clouded in the politics of an issue with candidates, but when you break it down, people feel a lot differently.''

To put it in baseball terms, it's like backing up a play.

Little League coaches are constantly telling players to expect mistakes, and be in position to back up teammates to avoid additional damage.

And, around here, we need all the backup we can get.

Romano: Keeping lawmakers (relatively) honest with amendments 11/12/16 [Last modified: Saturday, November 12, 2016 6:05pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Mexicans dig through collapsed buildings as quake kills 225 (w/video)

    World

    MEXICO CITY — Rescuers found a surviving child on Wednesday in the ruins of a school that collapsed in Mexico's magnitude 7.1 earthquake, one of many efforts across the city to try to save people trapped in debris under schools, homes and businesses toppled by the quake that killed at least 225 people.

    A man is rescued from a collapsed building in the Condesa neighborhood after an earthquake struck Mexico City, Tuesday, Sept. 19, 2017. The 7.1 earthquake stunned central Mexico, killing more than 100 people. [Associated Press]
  2. Construction starts on USF medical school, the first piece of Tampa's Water Street project

    Health

    TAMPA — Dozens of workers in hard hats and boots were busy at work at the corner of South Meridian Avenue and Channelside Drive Wednesday morning, signaling the start of construction on the University of South Florida's new Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute.

    A rendering shows what the USF Health Morsani College of Medicine and Heart Institute will look like when completed in 2019. Local officials gathered Wednesday to celebrate as construction begins on the facility, the first piece of the Water Street redevelopment area in downtown Tampa. [Rendering courtesy of the USF Health]
  3. Flooded Withlacoochee River nears crest

    Weather

    The flooded Withlacoochee River neared its projected crest Wednesday, with expectations that the floodwaters will begin to recede by the weekend.

    LUIS SANTANA   |   Times This aerial drone view shows flooding in the Talisman Estates neighborhood along the Withlacoochee River.
  4. Tampa Electric rules, Duke Energy drools, Hillsborough commissioners declare

    Blogs

    TAMPA — The pile on of Duke Energy continued Wednesday in Hillsborough County, where commissioners boasted how quickly most of their constituents had power after Hurricane Irma.

    Duke Energy workers cut tree limbs off a power line on Sept. 11 following Hurricane Irma.
  5. Whatever USF has to say about Temple waits till Thursday

    College

    "The holes were wide open. Anyone could have run through them."

    South Florida Bulls cornerback Mazzi Wilkins (23) intercepts a pass during the second half of the home opener for the South Florida Bulls against the Stony Brook Seawolves at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla., on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times