Big News From Tallahassee

One of the big stories of the day is buried in my newspaper, on the inside of the Metro section: 3 amendments kept off Florida ballot. Yes, the Florida Supreme Court ruled that would-be Amendments 3, 7 and 9 will not be on the November ballot, but Amendments 5 and 6 will be.

That means that the fair redistricting amendments pushed by Fair Districts Florida and supported by a massive numb er of voter signatures will be before the voters, but the sneaky underhanded attempt by the legislature to instantly undermine them (in Amendment 7) will not be. As the court of appeals noted, the summary of the amendment was so confusing even lawyers and judges couldn't figure it out.

This is a big deal, as Amendments 5 and 6 have the potential to be transformative and to fix one of the biggest things wrong with Florida politics: the very partisan gerrymandering of our electoral districts.l

Amendment 9 was an attempt to get out the Republican vote by offering a meaningless attempt to block part of Obama's healthcare program. It was meaningless and deceptive because the US Constitution contains something called the Supremacy Clause, which makes federal legislation trump state rules — even state constitutional rules. But voters were not told that, being led to think that their vote might mean something. Florida requires accuracy in ballot summaries.

Also chopped was Amendment 3, which would have given new homebuyers a tax credit, again for leaving out key details.

All the votes were 5-2.

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4 Responses to Big News From Tallahassee

  1. Technically, I think the Supremacy clause only makes federal law trump state law where the federal law is constitutional. The ballot initiative would have given the state some standing, then, to challenge this federal law, which it might have lacked if no part of the state’s law contradicted the federal law.

  2. michael says:

    One counterpoint, one question —

    1) Even if you are right, that’s not what voters were being told was the point of the exercise, so that still runs afoul of the Florida precedents on fairly informing the voters.

    2) (And this is a genuine, not a rhetorical question:) Is it really the case that a state wouldn’t have equally good standing in its capacity as employer and funder of many health care projects? I understand there is a ripeness issue currently, but the Amendment wouldn’t have changed that. What standing would this actually add?

  3. 1. Politics often involves a certain degree of mendacity; Perhaps they didn’t think the voters would get excited over a law just intended to provide standing.

    2. When you’re challenging the constitutionality of a federal law before judges who were entirely nominated and confirmed by federal officeholders, you need every little edge you can get.

    Anyway, I just wanted to point out that state ballot initiatives contradicting federal law are not entirely exercises in futility. Though that IS the way to bet. In this case, it wasn’t taken off the ballot as contradicting federal law, just as having a misleading summary. On THAT, I’ll agree.

  4. Scott Bauries says:

    This is good news. The court struck two legislation-like proposals that would have continued Florida’s worrisome penchant for governing by constitutional amendment (3 and 9). And the court retained two provisions (5 and 6) that actually have to do with foundational constitutional structure (a welcome change from “pregnant pigs” and such). I call that a win for the rule of law and the legitimacy of state constitutions. Maybe California will take notice.

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