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Sunday, April 17, 2011

Florida's buyers remorse/How to save Florida

From the Sun

by Stephen Goldstein

Florida Gov. Rick Scott doesn't just look scary; he is scary — and he does scary things. As Floridians watch helplessly, millions are screaming "buyer's remorse," now that they finally understand the extent of Scott's radical agenda — and face what they did to themselves by failing to heed warnings.

In addition, the Florida Legislature, now tea party/Republican-dominated with overwhelming majorities, is matching Scott's madness. Under the pretense of achieving fiscal soundness, Tallahassee is giving Florida an extreme makeover — as a state in which corporate interests trump people's rights and religious zealots tell everyone how to live.

Floridians have a choice: They can grouse but do nothing — or they can retake the state and show the governor and Legislature that "the people" are still boss.

Voters should pass eight constitutional amendments to restore representative government in Florida:

1. The "Recall" Amendment would give "the people" power to toss all bad elected officials. Now, the Florida Constitution only allows the Legislature to impeach the governor, or Rick Scott would be on his way out faster than you could say $1.7 billion fine for Medicare fraud. Tainted politicians, like defective toasters, should also be returnable — by citizens.

2. The "Majority Rule" Amendment would require a winning candidate to get at least 50 percent of the vote — or force a do-over. Rick Scott was elected by just 48.9 percent of voters. He does not have the mandate he claims to rule Florida and wouldn't have been elected after a second round.

3. The "60 Percent" Amendment would require another election if fewer than 60 percent of voters turn out. Candidates win and initiatives are approved in primaries and off-year elections when almost no one votes.

4. The "Follow the Will of the People" Amendment would fine and remove from office elected officials who fail to enforce the provisions of constitutional amendments. Florida voters have repeatedly reaffirmed support for the amendment limiting class size in public schools. But every year legislators try to undercut it. The Legislature has also failed to uphold the provisions of the "polluter pays" amendment requiring Big Sugar to clean up its mess in the Everglades. Elected officials must be held responsible for flouting the will of "the people."

5. The "Blind Trust" Amendment would require all statewide officeholders to put their financial assets in the hands of an independent trustee during their public service so they cannot consciously profit from their policy decisions.

6. The "Anti-lobbying" Amendment would ban paid lobbyists. "The people" elect officeholders. Then, to meet with them, they have to pay lobbyists who pay for access to elected officials with campaign dollars. Legalized bribery is still corruption.

7. The "Open Primaries" Amendment would keep extremist candidates and party loyalists from hijacking primaries by allowing voters to take part in the process, even if they are not registered with a given party. Currently, primaries favor candidates who take radical positions to appeal to a party's base. But then, unless they lie, they can't win the general election when they need a broader, more moderate, appeal. Open primaries favor centrist, more electable, candidates.

8. The "Representative Government" Amendment would increase the size of the Florida Legislature (now 40 senators, 120 House members) by 50 percent. Our growing state's 19 million residents need growing representation.

Such transformative amendments, so little chance they'd ever be taken up, let alone passed, for a simple, sad reason: Deluded Floridians/Americans are conditioned to believe that real life mirrors TV and the movies. Bad guys always lose, and good guys always win. Too late, they discover that the worst politicians typically stay in office ruining people's lives.

There's a glimmer of hope, however: Now that millions of Floridians realize they "did it" to themselves by electing Rick Scott, they need to discover they can "do it" to Scott and others through the Constitution. This isn't sour grapes, but the sweet taste of democracy — and the power of "the people."

Stephen L. Goldstein's commentaries appear on alternate Sundays. Email him at,0,6319028.column

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