Josh Goodman is a former staff writer for GOVERNING..E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Palm Beach Post has an interesting development in the debate over redistricting reform in Florida:
Senate Reapportionment Chairman Mike Haridopolos directed staff to begin drafting yet another proposed amendment for the ballot that would change the way Florida handles its once-a-decade redistricting process.
The move by Haridopolos, R-Melbourne, and other Republican leaders comes in response to the FairDistrictsFlorida group having collected enough signatures and gotten the Supreme Court's OK to put two questions on the November ballot that would ask voters to specify that redistricting can't be done to favor or disfavor any party or any incumbent. The group has two amendments because one is for congressional redistricting and the other for legislative redistricting.
Senate Republicans want to put another amendment before voters to either clarify FairDistricts', or to gut it, depending on whom you believe.
Florida's legislators certainly wouldn't be the first ones to attempt to rein in direct democracy through the ballot measure process itself. Their strategy reminds me of what I was writing about in California in 2008 (as part of a feature on elected officials trying to gain control over the initiative process):
Then there is the tactic of elected officials using one initiative to fight off another. Case in point: In California last year, the Howard Jarvis Taxpayers Association, a group that agitates for smaller government, entered into negotiations with the California League of Cities and the California Redevelopment Association to try to reach agreement on new eminent-domain restrictions. The talks broke down, and the Jarvis people went forward with an initiative that included far-reaching eminent-domain restrictions, as well as a ban on rent-control laws.
The government groups didn't just oppose that measure. They fired back with their own initiative, with more modest eminent-domain limits and no mention of rent control. The initiative also included a "poison pill" provision: If both measures passed, only the government-sponsored one would go into effect, provided that it received more votes. The poison pill turned out to be unnecessary. The stronger Jarvis measure was defeated by the voters, leaving the government-sponsored initiative as the only one left standing.
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