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The will of voters is being trampled by wily folks in Tallahassee

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By HOWARD TROXLER, Times Columnist

© St. Petersburg Times
published February 24, 2003


There is no getting around it.

We have a governor. We have a Legislature. We have a Supreme Court.

But we also have to build a high-speed train. And protect pregnant pigs. And outlaw smoking in Florida workplaces.

Not one of those things is any more "real" than any of the others. They all are the requirements of our state Constitution. The voters said so. What the voters say is paramount.

Nobody, not you, not me -- and sure as heck not the governor and Legislature -- gets to pick and choose which parts of the Constitution to ignore, or which parts to "obey slowly."

In fact, the governor and all 160 members of the Legislature are even more on the hook than you and me.

They took an oath before they started drawing their public paychecks. They put their right hands up in the air and swore that they would do what the Constitution says. If they don't, it is grounds for removal.

So, as long as the Constitution says we're going to build high-speed rail

I want to see them out there laying the track, and I am not entirely sure I mean that figuratively. I want to see Gov. Jeb Bush driving the final gold spike.

The same goes for smoking. The voters banned it. Period. No pussy-footing around.

Same with the state university system. The voters said it was going to be governed by a strong central board. The governor's appointments to that board have been nodding and winking and refusing to do much. They are unfit. It is grounds for removal.

Same with reducing class sizes and making polluters pay for pollution (that one passed a few years ago, and the Legislature has thumbed its nose at it ever since).

Now, let's give partial credit for intellectual honesty. There are some members of the Legislature who want to hold new elections to repeal high-speed rail, and even to repeal the class-size amendment that just passed.

Well, that's better than just disobeying the Constitution. But in the meantime, they have to keep building the train and reducing class sizes. Nobody gets to say: "What the heck, maybe the Constitution will change later, let's ignore it now."

On top of that, there ought to be punishment for being wrong. If the voters tell the Legislature, "Yes, we really meant it the first time," then those legislators who voted to put the idea back on the ballot should be honor-bound to resign -- no wait, their seats should automatically become vacant.

One more thing in this little Levitical (!?) screed.

The Legislature is tired of the voters being so uppity. So some of its members have been scheming to make it harder for the voters to amend the Constitution.

One lousy idea comes from our own state Sen. Anna Cowin, R-Leesburg, and state Rep. Mike Hogan, R-Jacksonville. They want to require future amendments to be approved by a majority of Florida's 67 counties, not just a majority of voters.

In other words, Florida's least-populous 34 counties, containing well less than 10 percent of the state's population, could dictate to the rest of the state. This is blatantly unfair and probably violates several different parts of the U.S. Constitution.

Defenders of this wacky scheme say: But the federal system already works that way. It takes a certain number of states to amend the U.S. Constitution. Sure. But they're states. They are full partners in the federalist scheme. The name of our nation is not "The United Units of Equal Population."

A county, on the other hand, is a mere political subdivision, a creation of the Legislature. Counties can be made and abolished on a relative whim. They are ephemeral, they are inconstant, they are the scribblings of politicians. They are servants, not masters. They are the doorstops and spittoons of the house, as it were. We could no more grant counties say-so over our Constitution than we could declare my cat Clarence to be the king of Florida, no matter how much Clarence might enjoy it or how much of an improvement in our affairs he surely would affect.

In sum, to elected officials everywhere:

You are the hired help. The voters are the boss. The voters told you what to do.

Obey or resign.

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