Thursday, April 26, 2018
Politics

Say no to amendments that don't belong on ballot anyway

It is fair to call Mark Sharpe a political wonk, a Tweeter, Facebooker and talker of politics local, state and national. Just this week he was driving his daughter to middle school when he decided to turn around and take her to see Mitt Romney stump in Tampa instead.

Sharpe is a Hillsborough County commissioner and also a Republican. Given all this, you would think he would have much to say about the 11 proposed amendments to our state Constitution tacked onto the ballot by the Republican-controlled Legislature for next Tuesday's presidential election.

But what he has to say is:

No.

Eleven times, no.

But this has little to do with the merits of the amendments, which run roughly the length of Gone With the Wind and deal with everything from property taxes to a break for disabled veterans to abortion funding.

It's because, Sharpe says, legislation doesn't belong in the state Constitution. "Mucking around with the Constitution is no way for a state to govern itself," he says.

My own problems with the disingenuousness of some of those amendments aside, he's right. It's wrong. It doesn't belong.

If you have not yet read through the amendments (which require 60 percent of our vote to pass), you might want to take along a tall Starbucks and a college professor. It's going to be a while.

Be on alert for sneakiness, like the noble-sounding "Religious Freedom" amendment that is actually about repealing a long-standing ban on taxpayer funding for religious groups.

Our Constitution is foundational, meant to guide us. It can change, but it was not meant to be further larded up and thickened with petty partisan measures not easily undone. It is not supposed to be a grab bag of special interests.

But hey, confusion might just get the job done.

This week the Florida League of Women Voters' hotline is fielding thousands of calls. Frustrated voters sometimes take 45 minutes in an earnest effort to understand the amendments. This doesn't say much for politicians respecting the people they serve.

"It is really frustrating to see the Legislature throwing any manner of long, complex, deceptive amendments on the ballot and saying, 'Well, you figure out what it means,' " league president Deirdre Macnab said.

It might be tempting — understandable, even — for a voter to consider skipping all 11 and vote neither yea nor nay. But everyone who does not vote on these amendments hands over power to the ones who do.

No. Eleven times, no.

Me, I am a traditionalist who always votes on Election Day, but this year, I wanted to check out the buzz about early voting. On an early afternoon, the old brick West Tampa library was bustling with people in work uniforms, in ties and in T-shirts, waiting on the old wooden floors to vote.

You couldn't help but notice everyone seemed to be taking a long time working through a ballot that might as well have scrolled down to the floor with those 11 questions that do not belong.

Though really, there could have been just one:

Is it okay for elected officials to pass the buck to voters and clunk up our state Constitution in the process?

And then, we vote accordingly.

Comments
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