This week, Florida’s Constitution Revision Commission (CRC) rejected two controversial proposals that would have inserted bizarre new “rights” into the state constitution: one that would have granted Floridians the “right to clean air,” a silly proposal only trial lawyers could love, and another proposal that sought to give Floridians the right to “produce their own electricity.” Almost certainly the CRC foresaw the danger: unregulated electric substations, giant solar mirror farms / death rays and home-brew transformers crackling and popping in the next door neighbor’s yard.
Today, the CRC has the chance to reject yet another controversial and wholly unnecessary proposal that would grant special rights for people in nursing homes. In truth, the proposal is a stealth vehicle designed by nursing home insiders to wage war against competitors through regulations that state lawmakers have already considered and rejected. While voters will be presented with a heartwarming public relations charm campaign for passing a bill of rights for nursing home residents, in reality, they’d be asked to vote in favor of a constitutional amendment laden with complexities that outsiders know little about: audits, financial and insurance requirements, and other industry minutiae that only experts understand.
Most voters aren’t going to research the fine print of this terrible proposal. They’ll make a value judgement based on whatever short description they are given, which can’t possibly explain the ramifications.
Just as with the recently rejected clean air and electricity proposals , this proposal would grant special human rights without any clear reason given for why they are necessary in the first place. The proposal is sponsored by Brecht Heuchen, who, although he has lobbied for these same proposals before the legislature in the past, is widely respected and almost certainly sponsoring the proposal out of principle and personal conviction. Unfortunately, that conviction is badly misplaced here. In addition to his role on the Constitution Revision Commission, Heuchen is an advisor to Governor Rick Scott, on the payroll of Scott’s Let’s Get to Work Political Committee, and should be cognizant of Scott’s commitment to the conservative principle of limited government.
Limited government advocates abhor the idea of enshrining special human rights to the state constitution. That’s because creating a special class for a distinct group of human beings (in this case, only those in nursing homes) can have profound, long-lasting consequences and can be extremely difficult to change in the future. It’s simply not something conservatives should support based on how touching or heartwarming the proposal seems. The simple fact of the matter is that nursing home residents already have the same basic human rights as everyone else, and if a nursing home provider is violating those rights, the provider should be prosecuted.
If additional regulations or rules are required to deliver quality care, that level of detail is not a question for voters who are not experts on the subject. The CRC should reject proposal 88, and if Heuchen and his clients still feel strongly about it, they should ask the legislature to approve the regulations. After all, that’s why we elect lawmakers in the first place – to study complex proposals in detail and decide if such ideas are best for ALL Floridians.