Retaliatory Amendment 12 is discouraging to youth and student civic participation

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The following is from Florida Initiative for Electoral Reform:

Apathy amongst youth and student voters has become an ever-more pervasive problem, and calls to action are nothing new, certainly not around election season. It seems that the Florida Legislature is not interested in youth and student civic participation, however, if one is to judge by the proposition of Amendment 12 on the November, 2012 state-wide ballot.

Presently, the Florida Student Association (FSA) elects a student representative to serve on the Board of Governors. The FSA is a council consisting of the student government leaders from Florida’s public universities. Amendment 12 proposes to write the FSA out of the Florida Constitution and create a council consisting of the same student leaders, but under the authority of the Board of Governors. Amendment 12 does not contain language that would limit the authority of the Board of Governors over this new and redundant council.

Proposed in a previous legislative session, the bill that became Amendment 12 found no traction. However, when the student representative on the Board of Governors opposed a legislative effort to make USF’s Polytechnic campus the state’s twelfth public university, Amendment 12 found new life. Although 88% of USF Polytechnic students and 77% of faculty opposed breaking the campus off into a new university, they were never consulted or even approached by the decision makers pushing for the project. The Legislature passed the proposal for the new university, then put Amendment 12 on the ballot to tinker with student representation. The fact that this was done in an overwhelmingly bipartisan fashion demonstrates that, under existing conditions, a non-moneyed constituency like students does not have the leverage to be considered, much less understood, by political decision makers. This retaliatory gesture sends the message to current and future student leaders that representing their constituency in a substantive and honest manner is simply not welcome.

Furthermore, Amendment 12 made its way through the Legislature and onto the ballot in a legislative session during which students’ calls for the repeal of HB 1355, and its barriers to voting, were ignored. In an electoral system where nearly two out of five seats up for election have already been decided prior to election day and in which fundraising dominates politics, Florida decision makers feel no urgency to encourage the next generation in matters of civic participation and representative democracy. The spirit of Amendment 12 is a testament to that.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.