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Florida Voters Passed an Initiative That Simultaneously Bans Office Vaping and Offshore Drilling

Amendment 9 bundled two seemingly unrelated prohibitions into one ban-happy ballot initiative.

Ldprod/Dreamstime.comLdprod/Dreamstime.comDefying expectations, Florida's Amendment 9 ballot initiative to ban both offshore drilling and vaping in offices has passed with a commanding 68 percent of the vote.

If you are wondering what kind of signature gathering campaign produced such a garbled initiative, the answer is none. Instead, Amendment 9 was cobbled together by the state's Constitution Revision Commission (CRC).

Created back in the 1960s, the CRC is made up of 36 unelected commissioners appointed by the governor (who gets to pick 15) the leaders of the Florida House and Senate (who each appoint nine) and the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court (who chooses three commissioners). The Attorney General also sits on the CRC as its 37th and only elected member.

Meeting every 20 years, the CRC is tasked with coming up with new constitutional amendments, which—upon approval by the body—go straight to the voters, no questions asked.

Not wanting to waste this rare opportunity, this year's CRC initially drafted some 20 amendments to place on the ballot. When concerns arose that this might confuse or fatigue voters, the CRC decided to condense these 20 initiatives into seven even more confusing measures.

In addition to vaping and oil drilling, Florida voters were asked to decide on ballot questions that combined issues like death benefits for military spouses and state university funding (Amendment 7), as well as highspeed rail, retroactivity for statutorily reduced criminal penalties, and the ability of foreign residents to own property (Amendment 11).

The prevailing view leading up to election day was that these confusing ballot initiatives would get crushed. Instead, they all won handily. The herculean efforts of proponents to squeeze both, seemingly unrelated issues into one coherent narrative helped get Amendment 9 over the finish line.

"Amendment 9 offers voters an opportunity to speak up against big oil and tobacco companies in a unified voice: 'Not off our shores!', 'Not in our public places!'," wrote two members of this cycle's CRC for Florida daily news site TCPalm.com.

Other papers seemed almost happy at the efficiency gains of having two obviously correct positions bundled together.

"Amendment 9 may be the silliest combination of all, combining a ban on nearshore oil drilling with a ban on using e-cigarettes in workplaces. Fortunately, both have merit," wrote the Orlando Sentinel's editorial board. "More logrolling by the Constitution Revision Commission, but with no apparent harmful effects," concluded Ft. Lauderdale's Sun-Sentinel.

As a cautious fan of ballot initiatives, I'm not so cheery.

The idea behind taking issues directly to the people is that it allows voters to bypass the machinations of state legislatures, which are often out of step with popular opinion and motivated by incentives other than serving their constituents. Amendment 9 violated the spirit of the ballot initiative concept by asking voters to ratify a backroom deal they had no part in putting together.

What reforms might be necessary to prevent this kind of logrolling by the CRC in the future is a good question. It's something Floridians can ponder they're forced to step outside for a quick vape break.

Photo Credit: Ldprod/Dreamstime.com

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  • Fist of Etiquette||

    It's something Floridians can ponder they're forced to step outside for a quick vape break.

    Not if the office is on an oil platform in the Gulf of Mexico, they apparently can't.

  • CE||

    For obvious reasons.

  • BestUsedCarSales||

    Glad to hear that Florida has finally banned water vapor.

  • Bronze Khopesh||

    People were steamed! Steamed!

  • Eddy||

    Joining the two propositions tended to cloud the issues.

  • Eddy||

    But I guess it worked, because the proposition got the moist, I mean most, votes.

  • BigT||

    THIS is what direct democracy looks like, kiddies. It ain't pretty.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Friggin' idiotic, the whole process. Mixed measures, diluting the state constitution, taking things that should be mere statutes and upgrading them to constitutional amendments. Everything passed except one. Nuts.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    It seems like y'all need something to dampen the direct democracy/mob rule stuff. Like a kind of electoral college, but for laws. Some sort of Senate or Congress methinks.

  • Pro Libertate||

    A theocracy?

  • BigT||

    Maybe a referendum to dissolve Florida's Constitution Revision Commission and repeal the Constitutional clause that established it?

  • Robert||

    Like maybe a commission? Insulated from the voters by layers of appointment & election?

  • Entropy Drehmaschine Void||

    I am soooooooooo Embarrassed.

    /Florida Man

  • Dillinger||

    bunch of old people who don't work in offices voted to ban office vaping?

  • CE||

    Pretty much. But they did it for the children, who don't work in offices either.

  • JFree||

    Better than banning office drilling and offshore vaping.

  • Eddy||

    I think the EEOC already banned office drilling.

  • Dillinger||

    "is that kind of thing frowned upon here?" - george costanza

  • Longtobefree||

    Interesting.

    Section 3 of article XI of the Florida constitution restricts ballot initiatives to a single subject.
    "SECTION 3. Initiative.—The power to propose the revision or amendment of any portion or portions of this constitution by initiative is reserved to the people, provided that, any such revision or amendment, except for those limiting the power of government to raise revenue, shall embrace but one subject and matter directly connected therewith."

    Yet the Florida's Constitution Revision Commission can make up it's own rules as it goes it's unelected way; Florida Constitution section 2, article XI:
    (c) Each constitution revision commission shall convene at the call of its chair, adopt its rules of procedure, examine the constitution of the state, hold public hearings, and, not later than one hundred eighty days prior to the next general election, file with the custodian of state records its proposal, if any, of a revision of this constitution or any part of it.

    I wonder if either the oil or vaping industries will go to court?

  • Juice||

    The single subject is banning things. Case dismissed.

  • Eddy||

    It's all about Making Florida a Better Place. That's one subject.

  • DRM||

    They already went to court. The Florida Supreme Court rejected the challenge on October 17th.

    This is the same provision the Florida Supreme Court previously used to block the Florida Civil Rights Initiative from the ballot, on the grounds that banning racial preferences in education, contracting, and hiring was three different subjects improperly combined.

    The official explanation is that the subject limitation only applies to initiatives proposed by the people, not referenda on CRC-proposed amendments.

  • Robert||

    The 1-subject rule, by what you've quoted above, seems to apply only to initiatives, not commission proposals.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm going to petition for an amendment for Tampa to be called the Land of the Nude. Along with something about saving kitties.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    How can it be the Land of the Nude when I don't live there?

  • Pro Libertate||

    I'm adding the power of annexation to the Florida constitution.

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Yeah, but if everything is nude, nothing is nude.

  • Eddy||

    According to Ballotpedia, the same amendment which included the victims-rights measure also included an amendment to "prohibit state courts from deferring to an administrative agency's interpretation of a state statute or rule in lawsuits."

  • Eddy||

    Worthy of coverage, no?

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Created back in the 1960s, the CRC is made up of 36 unelected commissioners appointed by the governor (who gets to pick 15) the leaders of the Florida House and Senate (who each appoint nine) and the Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court (who chooses three commissioners). The Attorney General also sits on the CRC as its 37th and only elected member.

    Smells like Gerrymandering reform.

  • ||

    Not wanting to waste this rare opportunity, this year's CRC initially drafted some 20 amendments to place on the ballot. When concerns arose that this might confuse or fatigue voters, the CRC decided to condense these 20 initiatives into seven even more confusing measures.

    It's really only confusing if you think the government should be doing some of these things but not others of these things. Otherwise, the government shouldn't be banning vaping, offshore drilling, or giving handouts to mooching war widows and they all get the same "No." vote.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I voted against most of them.

  • Nardz||

    Same here.
    Except for the victims rights/administrative interpretation one, because of the latter.
    And I have to admit, there was one (5? 6?) that i read multiple times and couldn't figure out what the hell it was saying - that i didn't vote on, nor the dog racing one (while i hate what they do to the dogs, restricting any kind of gambling is anathema to my being).

  • Nardz||

    So, I guess I voted against 4 of them and for 1 of them

  • NoVaNick||

    Other than progs who want to ban both, I wonder how many voted for it because they wanted to ban drilling much more than vaping. I know Florida has had a ban on offshore drilling for a long time already, so an amendment seems redundant.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    I think they're on to something here. There are all kinds of completely unrelated things you can pair together and then ban by voter referendums. For example:

    Plastic straws and gay wedding cakes (or ANY wedding cakes)

    Hate speech and unflattering haircuts

    Alcohol sales on Sundays and pants worn below the hips

    Sales of homemade meals or baked goods and "assault weapons"

    Homeschooling and gas-guzzling vehicles

    Just think about it, the authoritarians could have a field day with this paired banning thing!

  • Robert||

    Aren't all pants worn below the hips? I mean, I've heard of shorts, but come on!

  • NoVaNick||

    I work in Montgomery County, MD where vaping is strictly verboten, even at outdoor bus shelters. Yet, nobody has ever said anything to me about vaping at my desk. Unless you are blowing out huge clouds of vapor like a douchebag, nobody is going to notice, and there's always the bathroom. Might as well ban scratching your nuts in workplaces.

  • Inigo Montoya||

    So banning Acosta is the same as banning CNN? Is he their only reporter at this point?

    Call me cynical, but suspect he staged the whole thing for the cameras—perhaps with the POTUS' collusion. After all, both men share a similar background as TV personalities.

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