Over a café con leche the other morning friends were commenting that Tallahassee was a disorganized, non-responsive mess. They felt the legislature didn’t represent us, the citizens of the state.
I countered that the legislature was very organized and they knew just who they represented and went about it in a very meticulous fashion.
You want something done in Tallahassee? Follow the rules — the legislature’s rules. The rules for promoting new laws and/or killing existing laws are as follows:
Be able to deliver a large block of votes and/or cash infusion that can assist members of the legislature at election time. This gets their attention.
Here’s a good example: A law permitting fracking, the insertion of water under pressure into the ground, to force oil up is a hot item in the current legislature. A bill was strongly recommended by the Barron Collier Company permitting fracking. Collier holds and leases vast amounts of land in our state that hold oil.
The Florida Public Service Commission opposed the bill. Collier supports the bill with substantial financial contributions to legislative election accounts. Collier has won in the House and is winning in the Senate.
Be a member of a citizens group that has the money and the time to initiate an amendment to the state’s constitution.
Florida’s constitution states, subject to interpretation, what laws existing or proposed are legal and enforceable. So if you want to go against an existing law or propose new legislation, and you cannot get support from the legislature, you must get an amendment to the constitution on the ballot and seek voter support of the proposal. This is expensive and time consuming.
Example: The League of Women Voters was very dissatisfied with the way our legislature financially supports the acquisition of public land in an effort to improve and maintain the Everglades as the primary source of water for South Florida.
‘The League proposed an amendment to our state’s constitution requiring the allocation of 33 percent of net revenues from taxes collected on document recording fees around the state for the next 20 years be spent on acquisition and maintenance of South Florida’s waterways.
The League was successful in getting sufficient verifiable signatures, 683,149-plus required by law to get on the ballot, obtained court approval of the wording of the amendment and ultimately successful in rounding up sufficient votes to make it the law of the state. It won and is now referred to as “Amendment One.”
Unfortunately, again, the sitting legislature chose to ignore the amendment and allocated only a small portion of the required revenue stream as mandated. This will, I am sure, be the subject of great debate.
Vote. A vote for an individual seeking office or a seated elected official seeking reelection is a powerful tool in seeking support for your opinions. Unfortunately, we do not have sufficient voters going into voting booths at election time.
We hear “22 percent voted for a particular person.” That is assuming that all citizens eligible to register are registered. Again, unfortunately, not all citizens eligible to register are registered. If you adjusted the percentage of voters voting for a particular candidate that 22 percent would probably be 15 percent of eligible voters.
You cannot run a democracy with only 15 percent of its eligible citizens participating in the process. Elected members of our House and Senate know that they really don’t have to worry. Accommodate the few, especially those that support their views with money and votes, and they can stay in office.
All is well so far this legislative session. Bills with strong financial support are flying through committee. Some already have been signed into law by the governor.
A famous quote comes to mind: “No man’s life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session.” No one knows who said it, but whoever said it knew what they were talking about!