AMENDMENT WOULD REQUIRE SUPER MAJORITY by Roxanne Escobales

10/02/06

In 1968, Florida voters approved the creation of today’s version of the Florida state constitution with a 55 percent majority of the vote. But a new amendment on the November 7th ballot would change the rule that says a simple majority is enough to change the constitution. As WMNF’s Roxanne Escobales reports, the fight for Amendment 3 has brought together some unlikely bedfellows.

If passed by a majority vote of 51 percent or more from Florida voters, than Amendment 3 would require that changes to the state constitution initiated by citizens receive 60 percent of the vote rather than a simple majority. That irony is not lost on former state representative from Orlando, Bill Sublette.

ACT:

The Republican Sublette along with former Democratic Governor and US Senator Bob Graham lead the opposition to Amendment 3. As co-chair of the bi-partisan coalition Trust the Voters, Sublette says the simple majority rule supports citizens issues that reach across party lines and would not have passed had it been up to the Legislature.

ACT:

Some of the amendments that received less than the 60 percent wanted by those promoting Amendment 3 include the Save Our Homes property tax cap which passed in 1992 with almost 54 percent of the vote; and limiting class sizes, which passed in 2002 with less than 53 percent of the vote.

Mark Wilson is the executive vice president of the Florida Chamber of Commerce, which is the lead organization in the umbrellas group called Protect Our Constitution. He says that getting that super majority of at least 60 percent to pass an amendment is not that difficult.

ACT:

Yet Sublette of the opposition says that the super-majority required by Amendment 3 means that special interests would only have to rally a minority opposition to any future laws they may want to see defeated.

Those promoting Amendment 3, say they are the ones trying to protect the state from special interests. The Florida Chamber of Commerce’s Mark Wilson often uses the example of the amendment passed in 2002 with 55 percent of the vote that protects pregnant pigs from confinement.

ACT:

Big business make up the big-ticket donors to the Protect Our Constitution group. They include the National Association of Homebuilders, which gave 300-hundred-thousand dollars and U-S Sugar Corps, which gave 50-thousand dollars.

But on the other side of the fence, Sublette of Trust the Voters is a big anti-gambling advocate with his No Casinos Inc. Pro-life advocate John Stemberger of the Florida Family Policy Council also opposes Amendment 3.

ACT:

Stemberger reckons that the debate over Amendment 3 will heat up as election day nears. On both sides of the fence Republicans and Democrats rally together to get their message out. But with voters distributed roughly in thirds, it could very well be the independents that push the vote over the 50 percent that’s currently needed.

For WMNF News, I’m Roxanne Escobales.

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