In “Starve The Beast”, Junior Division, Steve Koppelman brings me the news of three really lousy ballot initiative ideas being promoted in Florida:
One would somehow “protect patient rights” by limiting malpractice suits. I guess doctors and their insurance companies are patients too sometimes.
Another would require the state to further tax gambling operations and earmark the money for schools. If decades of experience with lotteries and gambling taxation nationwide have taught us anything, it's that “earmarking” the proceeds for education means those proceeds quickly become the only source of education funds and that educational spending doesn't budge upward one bit, as the liberated money once put towards education gets redirected to all manner of other things.
So the medical and insurance lobbies are trying an end run around the trial-lawyer and civil-liberties lobbies. All right. That's to be expected. And yet another generation in yet another state thinks that it's found a magical way to double school funding when all it's really found is a way to give the legislature an incentive to deploy slot machines at every gas station, motel and convenience store in the state. Think Nevada. All right again. That's to be expected.
But then there's that other ballot initiative in the trifecta, the one that would increase the homestead property tax exemption from $25,000 to $50,000. At a time when the crush of newcomers to Florida has schools filling their parking lots with mobile classrooms attached to the mobile classrooms, looming water supply problems to address, and ever-growing demand for more police, more firefighters, more roads, more teachers, more, more, more, there's this.
Despite this, I do not support the Governor and gerrymandered Republican legislature's plan to make it harder to pass ballot initiatives. The Republicans are still smarting from the requirement that they shrink class sizes in schools, which may well require a tax increase — something Jeb wants to avoid at all costs in order to further his Presidential ambitions.
This state is not a progressive bastion, but it is more progressive than the regressive legislature. As they say, this is no accident, but a result of the way the Republicans have drawn the legislative districts plus the fact that the liberal elements are often in urban concentrations. So the ballot initiatives, for all that they are sometimes wacky are a Very Good Thing both in principle and often in practice. And if I don't always agree with the outcomes, much less the proposals, well, that's democracy.