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Legislature considers a 'poison pill' to nullify citizen petitions

I suppose there is no point in saying that the Legislature is doing something stinky. It sort of goes without saying.

But this is really clever. You have to admire it, in a weird way.

Remember that the citizens of Florida, by petition, have put the idea of "fair districts" on November's ballot.

Amendments 5 and 6 say that voting districts for the Legislature and Congress cannot be drawn "to favor or disfavor an incumbent or political party."

It is fair to say that the Legislature hates the fair-districts idea, just as it hates the amendment known as Hometown Democracy — and for that matter, as it dislikes citizen petitions in general.

But what to do?


The trick that the Legislature is considering is to put its own, rival amendment on the ballot this November.

And here is the best part:

It says that even if Amendments 5 and 6 pass this November — they won't count.

This is in the proposed wording of Senate Joint Resolution 2288:

The amendment says that the Legislature must have leeway in drawing voting districts so it can protect "racial and language minorities" (although that is a fake excuse, since federal law already does that).

Next, the amendment says that the Legislature must be allowed to consider "communities of interest" in drawing voting maps (a loophole allowing it to lump anybody it chooses into a district).

Next, the amendment declares that any map drawn by the Legislature is valid as long as it is "rationally related" to these rules.

("Rationally related" is a legal term that basically means that all they have to do is claim they had a reason for doing what they did.)

And lastly — this is the best part — the amendment declares that these things must be done …

… without subordination to any other provision of this article.

In other words: Amendments 5 and 6 would be trumped, even if they passed.

This is the idea of Mike Haridopolos, a state senator from Indiatlantic, who is scheduled to be the next president of the Florida Senate. The idea is pending in a Senate committee.

Haridopolos says he simply wants to "clarify" what the citizen petitions say. The "clarification" guts them, of course.


A lot of people in politics do not like Amendments 5 and 6.

Some say that the standards in them are impossible and that every map will be thrown into the courts.

Some say that fewer minority candidates will be elected.

And these are exactly the kinds of things that should be debated in a campaign.

But this! This is a "poison pill" amendment designed to fool voters into sabotaging their own petitions.

Remember that the petition-hating Legislature already is likely this year to ask voters to weaken the class-size amendment that they passed in 2002.

So why stop there?

Why not another amendment that tricks voters into saying that Amendment 4 (Hometown Democracy) doesn't count even if it passes?

Why not, every time the voters put something on the ballot by petition, have an automatic rival amendment that wipes out the first one?

I guess I should shut up — just givin' them more ideas.

Legislature considers a 'poison pill' to nullify citizen petitions 04/14/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, April 14, 2010 9:50pm]
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