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S TIMES SUNDAY. APRIL 24, 1904 3D
These petitions are pernicious
David Biddulph is a direct mail
marketer from New Smyrna Beach
whose life's work appears to be to
keep Florida from ever again raising a
I suspect he would dispute that
But Biddulph also claims to stand for pure democ-
racy, and by his actions he has now shown that isn't
The Tax Cap Committee he chairs has been
circulating petitions to amend the Constitution to
require a referendum before any state or local tax is
raised or any exemption is repealed.
This is a loony idea. If the Legislature decided,
say, to repeal the sales tax exemption for race horse
feed, it would have to put the question to a statewide
vote, and several million voters (or however many it
took to make a majority) would have to agree.
If, on the other hand, the legislators were.per-
suaded to create yet another tax exemption for
direct mail marketers, perhaps? they could do that
on their own. No referendum.
But what smells even worse is the deal Biddulph
made with U.S. Sugar Corp. when he saw that
Florida's good corporate citizens weren't kicking in
any money to his campaign.
For nearly half a million dollars in cash and
services from U.S. Sugar he's added two petitions
drafted by the company's lawyers to the package his
canvassers are asking citizens to sign.
One would require that two-thirds of the public,
not just a majority, vote to ratify any constitutional
amendment proposing a new state tax or fee. This
also would apply to any other amendment sharing the
ballot Nov. 8, which is when Biddulph and his Sugar
Daddies hope to have theirs up for a vote.
"Any such proposed amendment which fails to
gain the two-thirdp vote required hereby shall be null,
void d without effect," their proposal says.
The purpose, of course, is to block the Save our
Everglades initiative, the petition campaign in which
environmentalists are asking the public to tax raw
- sugar a penny a pound. That has been dining signa-
tures faster than Biddulhstax revolt. The U.S.
Sugar Daddies figure they can't beat it in a fair fight,
so they're going to whip it by trickery, with Biddulph's
Remember, this is a man who has repeatedly said
in public that he doesn't care how high taxes are so
long as the people vote them on themselves. But if
Biddulph and U.S Sugar get away with this scheme, a
minority of the people could forever block a personal
income tax, or a sales tax increase, or any other tax
proposal such as Insurance Commissioner Tom
Gallagher's Prisons Now initiative calling for a penny
sales tax increase that comes in the form of a
Biddulph, our man of the people, had also criti-
cized the gimmick some lawmakers were proposing to
write into a revenue limit amendment that is now on
the Nov. 8 balot by vote of the Legislature itself. (It
restricts the growth of state spending but doesn't
require tax referendums.) The so-caled poison pill
language would have invalidated any other tax-limit-
ing amendment including, he feared, his own -
that happened to be ratified on the same ballot. But
this was dropped from the measure before the Legs-
lature approved it. Even as he was protesting that
poison pill, however, Biddulph was mixing up one of
Suppose that the Save our Everglades amend-
ment, Prisons Now and the U.S. Sugar amendment
get the 490,000 signatures that would put them on
the ballot. Assume that 4-milion people vote on each.
Suppose further than 2,666,666 of them just a
fraction of one voter under two-thirds vote for
Save our Everglades and Prisons Now while only
2,000,001 just one voter above a bare majority -
vote for the Sugar snooker. The smaller number, a
bare majority, would erase the votes of the larger
number. They would also have given the naysayers of
Florida a permanent veto over any further constitu--
tional tax reform.
This doesn't just smell. It reeks.
As I mentioned, the Sugar Daddies have a second
horse in Biddulph's race. It's the so-called.property
rights amendment. Here's what it says:
"Any exercise of the police power, excepting the
administration and enforcement of criminal laws,
which damages the value of a vested private property
right, or any interest therein, shall entitle the owner
to ful compensation determined by jury trial ...
without prior resort to administrative remedies."
So if the local code enforcement board shuts down
a crack house or a hooker motel, the taxpayers have
to pay the owners no matter how many times they
were warned. If a city decides to segregate smUt
shops and nude dancing into so-called adult use zones,
anyone who owns other property that could have been'
used that way
It's the Florida Constitution we're talking about.
The future of this state. Biddulph and his Sugar
Daddies must not give a damn about either. But ifyou
do, here's a suggestion. The petitions that come four
to a set are theirs Don't sign.
SMarti Dyckman i ass.cate edior of the Times. a
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