Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Voters Need Way to Bypass Unresponsive Legislature

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Voters Need Way to Bypass Unresponsive Legislature

Article excerpt

Byline: Ronald L. Littlepage, Times-Union columnist

The debate over the process for amending the Florida Constitution is now fully engaged in Tallahassee and that's healthy.

But before it goes further, the poster child of constitutional amendments that has been used as a whipping post for those arguing that the process is too easy and controlled by deep-pocket special interest groups needs to be removed from the discussion.

Yes, we're talking about the famous pregnant pig amendment that voters approved in 2002.

It's been easy to poke fun at that amendment -- and I've been just as guilty as anyone -- but it turns out the amendment has served a valuable purpose.

The story you hear most often is that only two pig farmers in Florida were using the gestation crates for pregnant pigs that the amendment outlaws.

And the irony that most often grabbed the headlines was the fact that those two farmers had their pigs slaughtered after the amendment passed, which probably wasn't the goal of animal rights activists who pushed the amendment by arguing that confining the pigs to the crates was cruel.

However, and this gets little attention in today's debate, there were others besides animal rights activists who worked hard for approval of the amendment -- environmentalists who were alarmed by the prospect of factory hog farms moving into Florida and bringing with them the environmental disasters they have brought to states such as North Carolina.

The amendment protecting pregnant pigs in Florida in effect made the factory hog farms impractical here.

And the 2002 vote didn't come too soon. The very next year, the Legislature revised the state's Right to Farm Act, limiting local government controls over such farms.

Without the amendment and with the 2003 legislative action, factory hog farms, which cram tens of thousands of animals into small spaces, thus polluting the air and water with tons of waste, would have been difficult if not impossible to stop. …

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