The Florida Supreme Court has properly responded to the Legislature's deceptive efforts to get voters to amend the state Constitution to suit its political purposes. By affirming lower court rulings knocking three constitutional amendments off the November ballot, the justices relied on a basic requirement that amendments should be written clearly enough to say what they mean. That only benefits voters, regardless of their political leanings.
The most offensive of those rejected legislative missiles was Amendment 7, an arrogant attempt at self-preservation by Republican leaders. The 5-2 court opinion raised a number of legitimate problems with the confusing language, but the primary issue is that it misled voters. The amendment's true intent was to nullify two citizen initiatives.
Amendments 5 and 6 would prohibit the Legislature from rigging political districts to benefit individual candidates or political parties starting in 2012, when the next maps will be drawn. The amendments would require lawmakers to draw compact and contiguous districts, preferably following the boundaries of cities and counties. They also bar maps that diminish opportunities for racial or language minorities to participate or elect representatives of their choice. The result would be more representative government that better reflects the will of the voters, rather than gerrymandered districts that favor incumbents or particular parties. Only to incumbent lawmakers would that sound like a bad thing for democracy.
"It is a sad day when more than 60 percent of the elected representatives of the people of Florida can't get ballot measures approved by the court but special interest groups can,'' whined incoming Senate President Mike Haridopolos, R-Melbourne. It's a sadder day when elected lawmakers have so little regard for their constituents.
The Supreme Court also affirmed lower court decisions to remove from the ballot Amendment 9, a reactionary attempt to undercut federal health care reform, and Amendment 3, a better intentioned effort to give a tax break to first-time homeowners.
Now voters have fewer constitutional amendments to consider, and the court has reminded lawmakers of their legal obligation to write clear amendments. Not bad for a day's work.