Guest Column
Hey, Floridians, are you smarter than a legislator? | Column
I think it would be simpler if these guys were just honest about what they really want — for you people not to vote at all.
This is an aerial photo of the Florida State Capitol, where all the people who are smarter than us congregate, writes columnist Scott Maxwell.
This is an aerial photo of the Florida State Capitol, where all the people who are smarter than us congregate, writes columnist Scott Maxwell. [ FELIX MIZIOZNIKOV | Dreamstime ]
Published Nov. 19

A common trait among Florida legislators, especially those in positions of power, is that they think they’re really smart. Usually smarter than they are. And definitely smarter than you.

It’s not completely their fault. Many live inside bubbles filled with staffers and lobbyists who constantly tell them they’re brilliant. (And attractive. And hilarious joke-tellers.) Plus, they’re surrounded by a bunch of other politicians. So it’s a low bar.

Scott Maxwell
Scott Maxwell [ Provided ]

I mention all this because Republican legislators are resuming one of their long-running crusades: trying to make it harder for you to set the policies and priorities you want in the state in which you live. And they do so because they think you’re too dumb to be trusted — at least when it comes to changing state laws.

See, if 50.1% of voters put a politician into office, that politician usually believes voters have demonstrated the wisdom of Solomon. But if 60% of you vote for something they dislike — like medical marijuana or a higher minimum wage — then they’re convinced you don’t understand what you’re doing. You’re an idiot.

So the politicians want to protect you from yourself. Republican lawmakers began this crusade about two decades ago. Florida voters had already used the constitutional amendment process to demand things like smaller class sizes — and it really ticked off lawmakers.

So the politicians teamed up with deep-pocketed donors, like Publix and the Florida Association of Realtors, to fund a campaign to raise the threshold for future amendments from 50% to 60%. And it worked. But the politicians and special interests had a problem: You people — the annoying voters — kept on voting for things they disliked by margins of 60% or more. So now GOP lawmakers want to raise the bar to 66.7%.

You already live in a state where the minority rules. Now they want to make it the superminority. This is why I think it would be simpler if these guys were just honest about what they really want — for you people not to vote at all. Just let them run the show.

They’re smarter. And they will protect you from your own bad ideas … like quality pre-K programs for all. Voters should play as little of a role as possible in democracy. That’s the basic idea from Rep. Rick Roth, a Republican from Palm Beach, perhaps by way of Pyongyang or Havana. Roth is the sponsor of the bill to raise the amendment threshold to 66.67%.

And he has a lot of support within his party. Almost all of the Republicans in the state House supported Roth’s bill last year. It was the Senate that said no. House Republicans called their 67% bill an effort to demand “broader support.” Yet would you like to guess who didn’t receive “broader support” at the polls? Most of the legislators who supported this bill.

Give those guys a 51% victory, and they consider it a mandate. But a 63% vote for Fair Districts? Well, you dumb voters just didn’t understand what you were doing. Many lawmakers also claim the amendment process should be tougher because the Florida Constitution is some sort of sacred document whose hallowed words should not be altered by mortal men — an argument that is a total crock.

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The Florida Constitution wasn’t handed down to Moses on a mountaintop thousands of years ago. It was last ratified in 1968 when “The Beverly Hillbillies” was still on TV. And lawmakers themselves have tried to ram all sorts of half-baked ideas into the constitution in recent years, including a nonbinding rant against Obamacare they wanted to insert in 2012. That they find worthy of inserting into our state’s supposedly sacred constitution. But not restoring civil rights to former felons.

The reason Roth’s push to make the amendment process tougher is getting extra attention this year is that GOP lawmakers are extra nervous about abortion. All over America, moderate Republicans are uniting with Democrats and independents to pass laws guaranteeing the right to abortion access. Kansas particularly freaked these guys out.

When they saw that nearly 60% of voters in that very conservative state supported abortion rights, they knew they needed to change the rules in Florida so that 60% would no longer be considered a victory. If you can’t win the game on the field, move the goal posts. But again, it seems like it’d be simpler for these politicians just to ban voting altogether. Instead of moving the threshold of victory from 50% plus one — which it’s been since the beginning of time — to 60% and then 67% and then who knows what later on, just tell citizens they can’t vote anymore.

After all, the politicians are obviously smarter than the rest of us. Just look at the deft way they’ve handled property insurance and things like unemployment benefits. Citizens, with their silly notions about democracy, fairness, civil rights and quality education, just tend to get in the way.

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