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Elections & Voting Last Updated: Oct 19th, 2006 - 00:39:33

Democracy battle in Florida
By Joel S. Hirschhorn
Online Journal Contributing Writer

Oct 19, 2006, 00:35

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Voters in Florida should not fall victim to the slick advertising by corporate and other special interests. Their aim is to pass Amendment 3. Why? Because the corporatist state wants to up the percent of votes required to pass citizen ballot initiatives that amend Florida's constitution, from the current simple majority requirement to a supermajority of 60 percent. If this tactic succeeds, Florida would be the only state requiring such a supermajority for ballot measures and initiatives, and corporate interests will work to do the same in other states.

Citizen ballot measures and initiatives are one of the few ways Americans in some states have to make laws, circumventing their corrupt legislatures.

In Florida, citizens have passed laws that corporations do not like. One amendment banned the use of large commercial gill nets that had been wiping out vast schools of game fish while indiscriminately killing other species, including turtles. Legislators serving commercial fishing interests had refused to take action.

The supermarket chain Publix and the Florida Chamber of Commerce were angry about a 2004 amendment raising the minimum wage to $6.15 an hour -- something their lackeys in the legislature had refused to do. Legislators refused to ban smoking in restaurants and bars, so health care groups took their case to the people in 2002. And Floridians banned public smoking.

Here are a sampling of the businesses and special interests fighting direct democracy: the National Association of Home Builders, Blue Cross/Blue Shield, the Florida Association of Realtors, U.S. Sugar, the St. Joe Co. (a huge land developer), Lykes Bros. Inc., the Florida Chamber of Commerce, Publix, the Florida Farm Bureau, the National Rifle Association, the Florida Institute of CPAs, and the Florida Education Association.

Though there is considerable opposition to Amendment 3, voters may get suckered by claims of "reform" being made by corporate interests. The bad guys have been spending millions of dollars and use a website,, designed to deceive citizens. A Chamber of Commerce official said "Florida businesses will be much better protected from the unintended consequences of these cleverly packaged, frivolous and often extremely costly ballot initiatives." Yup, direct democracy is a real threat to all the corrupt corporate interests screwing the public.

In support of less democracy, here is a lie from the head of the Florida Farm Bureau Federation: "We need to return the ballot initiative process to the citizens of Florida."

Their efforts may be working. Earlier this month it was reported that a Miami Herald/Zogby poll found that Floridians favor the amendment, with 67 percent backing it, 27 percent opposing it, and only 6 percent undecided. If Floridians spit on democracy this November, the victory will motivate corporate interests to attack it elsewhere. So this Florida battle has consequences for the rest of the country.

Here's one of the best cases for voting against this initiative. How did it get on the ballot? It was the legislature itself that did this. Yes, state legislators working on behalf of corporate interests decided that it was in the public interest to make it more difficult for the public to make laws. Proving that the legislature cannot be trusted to faithfully represent the public interest. And, yes, Governor Jeb Bush also supports this awful amendment. Well, why would anyone think that a Bush would support direct democracy?

It is important to note that Florida lawmakers have refused to let citizens pass statutory laws; only constitutional amendments can be made by ballot initiative. So you can't blame the public for messing around so much with the state's constitution.

"People need to see this for what it is: It's a power grab by the legislature and wealthy interests," said Ben Wilcox, a lobbyist for Florida Common Cause. "It's an effort to limit the ability of citizens to use the initiative process to effect change."

Former U.S. Sen. Bob Graham, a Democrat, said: "Democracy is government of, by and for the people. There is no more fundamental way in which people can directly participate than Florida's citizen initiatives." He also noted that Amendment 3 "would strangle the people's rights."

The Florida ACLU properly observed: "Amendment 3 was placed on the ballot by state politicians at the behest of insider lobby groups who want to take power away from ordinary Floridians and keep it all in Tallahassee. If Amendment 3 passes, lawmakers will continue their campaign to crush citizen involvement in government."

A former Republican member of the state house, Bill Sublette, said: "Floridians have a simple choice Nov. 7. They can either vote to trust the politicians, lobbyists, and special interests by voting for Amendment 3, or they can vote to trust the people by voting against Amendment 3. I say trust the people. "

Paul Jacob of Americans for Limited Government commented: "Sadly, and dangerously, the politicians and special interests behind Amendment 3 don't believe that government belongs to the people. They believe government belongs to them. "

We the people need more, not fewer, opportunities to circumvent our corrupt MISrepresentatives. Too much representative democracy is a bad thing. Just look at the state of our delusional democracy. It must be balanced with more direct democracy.

Tell your friends and relatives in Florida how important it is to vote NO on Amendment 3 next month. This is not just a battle for democracy in Florida.

This is all about saving American democracy -- what little of it remains.

Joel S. Hirschhorn�s new book is "Delusional Democracy -- Fixing the Republic Without Overthrowing the Government." He can be reached through

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