“All political power is inherent in the people.”
Here in Florida, that’s not just something we believe to be true, it is the first principle laid out in Section 1 of our state’s Constitution. But time and time again, Republicans in Tallahassee continue to prove that they believe that all the power should reside solely in their hands.
A proposal now moving through the Florida Legislature, SJR 1412/HJR 1127, would further restrict the power of the people by limiting the types of constitutional amendments which could be placed on the ballot through the citizens initiative process. For more than 50 years, this constitutionally protected process has allowed everyday Floridians to place amendments on the ballot that improve the lives of the people of our state when politicians refuse to act.
But under the proposal by Republican Sen. Jason Brodeur and Rep. Mike Beltran, the voices of Floridians would be silenced. By restricting the types of amendments that everyday people can put on the ballot many of the positive steps our state has taken would not have been possible.
If this prohibition had been in place the last 20 years, Floridians would not have Fair Districts when they cast their ballots, access to safe and legal medical marijuana in their doctor’s office, or eventually a $15 an hour minimum wage in their workplace. Our returning citizens would still be fighting for their freedom to vote and our environment would not have dedicated funding to preserve our natural treasures for generations to come.
All of those achievements were fought for by regular citizens who took on the monumental task of gathering hundreds of thousands of petitions from other concerned Floridians throughout our state and then helped spread the word to gain the support of more than 60 percent of voters to enshrine them in our Constitution.
This process is already difficult and lawmakers have tried numerous times over the years to make it even harder because they don’t really want us to have the freedom to set our own priorities. Because let’s be clear: when a corporate special interest needs something in Tallahassee, they can write a check and their concerns will be addressed. For those who are struggling to afford housing or pay their ever-increasing utility bills, this may be the only way to make lawmakers listen!
It is truly disgusting when Republican leadership complains that the citizens initiative process has been abused when those same lawmakers have refused to engage in real campaign finance reform that would put an end to the influence of large corporate donors and out of state billionaires on our political process. Instead, they attack the ability of Floridians to make their voices heard.
What this proposal truly reflects is the attitude that permeates among politicians in Tallahassee. From the House Speaker and Senate President to the Governor, Republicans have used this session as a way of dictating to Floridians what they can and cannot do, rather than enacting laws that reflect the will of the people.
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I urge everyone to call their elected state legislators and tell them to reject this anti-democratic attack on the right of Floridians to amend our Constitution for the better.
True freedom means the freedom to enact real change that makes all of our lives better. Don’t let politicians take that freedom away from you.
Alex Sink is the former Chief Financial Officer for the State of Florida and treasurer for the board of trustees of the Florida State Board of Administration.