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Amendment Shock: A More Tolerant Nation Is By-Passing Smug, Regressive Florida

| November 11, 2012

Almost all white, all Republican, all male, all smug: the Florida House’s so-called ‘Cigar Caucus,’ one of many reflections of the state’s monochromatic ideology. From left to right, Will Weatherford, Steve Crisafulli, Chris Dorworth, W. Keith Perry, James “J.W.” Grant, Daniel Davis, Jose Oliva, Speaker Dean Cannon, Carlos Trujillo, Jose Felix Diaz, Richard Corcoran, Eddy Gonzalez and Jimmy Patronis, the latter a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council known as ALEC.
(Mark Foley)

Tuesday’s election featured 176 popular referendums that showed many states liberalizing their way into the 21st century. Too bad Florida was not among them. We remain stuck in the 19th century, and not just because we can’t even get our election machines to work properly.

pierre tristam column flaglerlive Florida had 11 such measures on the ballot. Not one was petitioned by the people. They were legislative edicts. But it was good to see that charlatan initiatives aiming to restrict abortion funding, divert public dollars to religious schools and activities, limit local government’s taxing powers or snub ObamaCare, all failed. But those were negative amendments aiming to restrict or Christianize freedoms, not expand them. Look at the rest of the country.

In California, voters approved a sales tax increase of a quarter percent and raised taxes on the rich to fund schools. It signaled Californians’ weariness of Proposition 13, the 1978 referendum that severely limited property tax increases, wiped out a $5 billion surplus, demolished California’s ability to run government responsibly, and triggered the fetish for tax-cutting that elected Ronald Reagan—a former California governor—president.

Jerry Brown had opposed Proposition 13 as governor 34 years ago. He championed Proposition 30 Tuesday, again as governor. California may be showing the way to a belated fiscal clean-up of Reagan’s legacy of shoestring governing.

Maine voters should be especially applauded. Three years ago they rejected gay marriage at the ballot box. (Florida did so in 2008.) On Tuesday, Maine voters reversed themselves. Gay-marriage measures also passed in Maryland, Minnesota and Washington, while Wisconsin elected its first openly lesbian U.S. senator. The country’s disgraceful opposition to marriage equality is on its last ugly leg.

In another sign of enlightenment and a move away from a 40-year war on drugs that has done little more than corrupt police forces and fill up jails while doing nothing to stop drug use, Colorado and Washington State voters legalized marijuana use, while voters in Massachusetts and Montana approved its use for medical reasons. Fifteen other states already had. Medical marijuana is a joke, of course. There may be more pot stores than liquor stores in Los Angeles. The stuff is smoked avidly by recreational users. But so what? Marijuana is less harmful than alcohol, and punishing its use has been no more beneficial to society than Prohibition was in the 1920s. It’s time to lighten up, if not light up.

A measure that would have made assisted suicide legal in Massachusetts failed by a very small margin, but at least the state is willing to have a public discussion about what will be –and what should be, for Florida’s elderly profile–an important debate on end-of-life dignity (death-panel idiocies notwithstanding).  Unions fared well in several states (except in Michigan). Maryland, in a landslide vote that wrote another verse to Emma Lazarus’s “huddled masses” poem, approved granting in-state college tuition to the children of undocumented immigrants, an idea the Florida Legislature scorned just this year.

Unquestionably, a few states, particularly in the blush-red heartland, are still pressing the case of reaction. Oklahoma just adopted a cap  on taxable valuations identical to the one that obliterated fairness in Florida’s property tax assessments. Georgia and Washington State handed their legislatures the right to create charter schools and further undermine the mission of traditional public schools, because privatizing the system wasn’t going fast enough. And four states did pass symbolic referendums rejecting ObamaCare.

So back to Florida, where eight of 11 amendments failed. The three exceptions were more pandering to the elderly and veterans’ spouses in the form of extra homestead exemptions that, frankly, they neither need nor deserve, considering those constituencies’ already generous benefits.

The nation may be divided politically. But the divisions in Florida are more severe. The failure of the legislatively-proposed amendments shows how out of touch that legislature is with the people, and how out of step Florida is with the nation.

Other states are mending their tax structure,  broadening freedoms and rights, looking to the future by solidifying education. Florida  is gutting higher education by $300 million, starving the public education system, and still brownnosing people who feel entitled to every tax exemption under the sun. The state is stumbling its way to third-world status.

Here’s to hoping that Florida legislators have a reefer or two when they convene in January, and begin to lighten up, too.

Pierre Tristam is FlaglerLive’s editor. Reach him by email here or follow him on Twitter.

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16 Responses for “Amendment Shock: A More Tolerant Nation Is By-Passing Smug, Regressive Florida”

  1. Dee Voss says:

    Your caption under the picture needs to be amended.
    From left to right,
    Will Weatherford, ALEC
    Steve Crisafulli, ALEC
    Chris Dorworth, ALEC
    W. Keith Perry,
    James “J.W.” Grant,
    Daniel Davis, ALEC
    Jose Oliva,
    Speaker Dean Cannon,
    Carlos Trujillo, ALEC
    Jose Felix Diaz, ALEC
    Richard Corcoran, ALEC
    Eddy Gonzalez and
    Jimmy Patronis, the latter a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council known as ALEC.


  2. Clint says:

    You DARE suggest that our veterans do not deserve an extra homestead exemption. Let me be the first to say……they deserve EVERYTHING EXTRA WE CAN GIVE !!!!

  3. J B says:

    Sign a petition to let states experiment with marijuana:

    Text of the petition:

    We propose that enforcement of federal marijuana regulations be suspended -temporarily- in the states of Colorado and Washington in order to allow time for these states to experiment with an alternative form of marijuana regulation.

    We are not petitioning for a change in federal regulation, and certainly not legalization, at this time.

    We feel that this is an appropriate middle ground for the federal government to take at this time, given that a sizable portion of the People support a similar form of regulation in addition to the people of the aforementioned states.


  4. Angela Smith says:

    A great many people worked VERY hard to disseminte the TRUTH about these amendments, and I’m happy to say that it WORKED!

  5. Spencer McGuire says:

    Veterans should get as many benefits as possible. It is not your place to judge what someone deserves. Semper Fi.

    • Pierre Tristam says:

      Of course it’s my place to judge, as it ought to be any taxpayer’s, whether the beneficiaries are veterans, garbage collectors, senators or ex-military commanders who can’t control their insurgent penises.

  6. Sandra Reynolds says:

    Where are the women?

  7. Alex says:

    Our elected representatives are paid to debate issues and pass laws.
    Amendments are for people.
    Our elected State officials let us down.
    The change will come, but not soon enough.

  8. confidential says:

    When Congressmen of the House are out to be voted again two years from now….lets do not forget what have they done since 2008 and specially with the new Tea Bagggers elected in 2010. The likes of Mitch McConnell already threatening to past legislation from now on proposed by Mitt Romney only…hey dude, we voted for Obama, Romney lost!
    Maybe will take some of us to move to some of those new districts designated GOP only?

  9. Mary says:

    Yet another poorly written article by Flaglerlive. So our veterans deserve no more help but hey let’s freely have abortions and smoke weed in the streets wonderful your priorities are really set straight there in the being you already at the start made the artical very racial by saying all whites so you are helping anger more people towards differnt races. I live in Flagler County I used to enjoy this paper but it has become a disappointment ever since the election. It’s a shame.

    • Ummm says:

      If you don’t like it, don’t read it. No one is forcing you to type FlaglerLive into your web browser and click link after link to read the articles.

  10. DoubleGator says:

    All these things and more relegate Florida to a big state with no ideas and the good old boys playing their games of power. Oh well, Florida has never been a national leader so no surprise there. The cast of characters currently in power in Tallahassee are not leaders. They are merely the unruly mob. Their petty decsions make Florida a joke within the state and nationally. But heck the door is open to people with good ideas and getting things changed around. Maybe next go around the people of Flagler county will vote STRONGLY for actual representation in Tallahassee.

    P.S. The legislature (who proposed all these tax amendments) could have done all these through legislation last year. They were all totally unnecessary as constitutional amendments, but we know the real purpose was as political dog whistles.

  11. Prescient33 says:

    It is mind boggling that any sentient human being would point to California as a model in fiscal responsibility. It is even worse off than the Federal Government in its looming debt crisis, with businesses abandoning the state in search of states with friendlier tax climes, adding to its unemployment lines. To celebrate tax increases as a model to be emulated defies description, other than asininity. Union funded campaigns, particularly gov’t unions swayed the vote, to the detriment of taxpayers, only delaying the day when the house of union cards crashes. We don’t need that here.
    The social initiatives are but a “feel good” band aid supported by the uninitiate voters unaware of the negative consequences of their votes. The price of progressivism is more than we should be asked to pay, in societal and fiscal terms yet to be discovered. Pray FL stays conservative in these areas.

  12. pamala zill says: it really true KKK in Flagler? Scary.

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