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Some of these Florida amendments aren't worth your time

 
A dozen proposed constitutional amendments will make this one of the longest ballots in Florida in the last 20 years, but it doesn't necessarily have to be that hard. The motives and manipulations behind some of those amendments makes them automatically unworthy, according to one columnist. [JAMES BORCHUCK  |  Times]
A dozen proposed constitutional amendments will make this one of the longest ballots in Florida in the last 20 years, but it doesn't necessarily have to be that hard. The motives and manipulations behind some of those amendments makes them automatically unworthy, according to one columnist. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
Published Oct. 18, 2018

For such a sacred document, we seem to give little thought to scribbling on, erasing and haphazardly expanding the Florida Constitution.

Since a revised version was established in 1968, Florida voters have been asked to consider more than 175 different amendments. That seems like a lot of tinkering for a state that already employs 160 lawmakers and has enough lobbyists to establish a Happy Hour in perpetuity.

Naturally, much of the fault rests with legislators. They have accounted for about 70 percent of all those amendments. If you throw in the Constitution Revision Commission, which lately has been acting as the Legislature's backup singers, the number increases to about 80 percent.

RELATED: The Constitutional amendments on Florida's ballot, explained.

So you might be wondering:

Why are the most politically powerful people in the state so eager to change the rules? Why don't they just use the tools they already possess to change policies or laws?

The short answer:

Because a lot of their schemes are unconstitutional.

This is why they turn to you, the voter, to do their dirty work. And, lately, Florida voters have been more and more inclined to say no.

There was a time when all but the most controversial amendments put to voters got the rubber stamp treatment. Through the 1980s, 1990s and 2000s, amendments passed at a nearly 90 percent clip.

That's no longer the case. Part of the reason is the threshold for passing an amendment was raised from a simple majority to 60 percent, but that's only affected a few initiatives in the past decade.

The greater reason is amendments have gotten more political. More cynical. And in recent years voters have rejected as many amendments as they have approved.

Which brings us to today.

The ballot you received in the mail, or the one you soon will fill out at a voting center, has another 12 proposed amendments. Three were put on the ballot by the Legislature, seven were courtesy of the latest Constitution Revision Commission and two were grassroots efforts from citizens groups.

I would encourage voters to look beyond the often-misleading titles and actually read the amendment's language to understand what it seeks to accomplish. It's also a good idea to find a voter guide from a group you trust — whether that's the James Madison Institute, the League of Women Voters, the Tampa Bay Times or some other source — to get a perspective on each amendment's value.

It is not my intention to argue for any idea, one way or another. Instead, this is a philosophical approach based on each amendment's origin.

I dismiss the three legislative-initiated amendments (1, 2 and 5) because they have more to do with partisan politics than necessity for the state Constitution.

As a matter of principle, I also reject five of the seven amendments from the commission. Those five (6, 7, 9, 10 and 11) have multiple ideas bundled together, ostensibly to make the ballot shorter. In reality, the bundles entice voters to approve an unpopular idea because it is tethered to a more happy-sounding proposal. It's a ploy, and I refuse to be snookered by it.

That leaves the two citizen-initiated amendments (3 and 4) and the two single-issue amendments from the commission (12 and 13) to consider and debate.

You may feel differently. Feel free to let me know. But only if you promise to vote.