The Florida Supreme Court yesterday struck a proposed state constitutional amendment from the November ballot. The proposed amendment would have prohibited Florida from participating in the federal health care reform program.
Florida has two ways of getting a proposed amendment on the ballot -- by petition, or by an act of the legislature. This one was placed there by the Republican legislature. It would have forbidden any law that compels participation by an individual, employer, or heath care provider in any health care plan.
But that's not what the ballot would have said.
In Florida, the entire proposed amendment usually does not appear on the ballot. The ballot contains only a summary, which is supposed to be an accurate representation of the proposed amendment. It is supposed to be clear and unambiguous.
The Republican legislature didn't want to risk letting voters know what the amendment really said, or what it was designed to do. So they loaded up the summary with political dog whistles. The ballot would have told voters that they were voting for "access to health care" and to protect the "doctor-patient relationship" and to guard against "mandates that don't work."
The Supreme Court ruled that the summary was misleading because the proposed amendment said nothing about "access to health care" or the "doctor-patient relationship" and did not explain what mandates it was talking about. Instead, it used political rhetoric. Under Florida law, political rhetoric cannot be placed on the ballot.
The proponents of the amendment -- the anti-health-care forces -- tried to save the proposed amendment by asking the Supreme Court to order that the entire proposal be put on the ballot instead of a summary. The court said it does not have the power to do that. It is not an activist court. It can only do what the law authorizes it to do.
Predictably, Chief Justice Canady -- yes, the guy from the Clinton impeachment is now our Chief Justice -- dissented. He accused the Court of thwarting the Legislature's intent to place the amendment before the voters.
Make no mistake about it. These guys will be back. They will fix the defects, or they will find another way to do it.
But for now, this is a small victory for health care reform.
Florida has two redistricting amendments on the ballot in November that might help change the balance of power in this state. Right now, in a state where Democrats vastly outnumber Republicans, the legislature is dominated by Repulicans because of gerrymandering. Progressives put two proposed amendments on the ballot to try to prevent that. The Republicans added a poison pill -- a third amdment which would have nullified the effect of the other two.
Not surprisingly, the Legislature's ballot summary for the poison pill amendment was also misleading. It did not tell voters that, by voting for it, they would be voting to nullify the changes in the other two amendments. The Supreme Court also struck it from the ballot. If the redistricting amendments pass, we might be able to get Florida back on the right track.
Here are links to the Florida Supreme Court's decisions.