Monday, 20 March 2006

A Local Effort

Part of what kept me away from posting more regularly here over the last month was prioritizing my attention toward the passage of a local school construction bond and technology levy in my own school district. My focus on Choosing Hope has never been local, so those efforts went elsewhere, both online and out in the community. Both measures passed handily, in spite of the onerous 60% Yes vote required for their passage in our state.

While it was certainly gratifying that this particular local vote went as I wished, after the election I was disappointed to discover (via Noemie Maxwell's reporting) that our state legislature - specifically the Senate - once again failed to act to relax the requirements for these types of votes in the future.

I wrote nearly a year ago about the patently illogical requirements for these bills' passage, and what I perceived to be an overreaching by supporters of reform, when a modest improvement might significantly improve the odds that popular bonds and levies pass. I'm very impatient with tactical or procedural impediments to lawmakers coming together to bring obviously needed reform to a system. Advocates for relaxing the requirements have been working this issue for years, and clear majorities in both legislative chambers support some form of reform, but the legislature has yet to present a required constitution change to the voters for statewide approval.

Personally I wouldn't even mind something greater than simple majority - say 54 or 55% - along with the removal/change of the illogical validation requirements, though I understand well enough the simplicity of arguing for simple majority. We should figure out what will pass and get it out there, instead of having the issue tied up for years. Dan Steele, of the Washington State School Directors’ Association, explained the procedural logistics of not bringing last years vote up when failure was expected, since leaving it alone automatically gets it reintroduced for this year's session. This year though, any bill not passing would have to be reintroduced with a different number to next year's legislature which will be a changed body based on this year's elections.

As for our local measures, there was a somewhat coordinated opposition, complete with yard signs and blog posts here and here. As with any issue not all objections were specious, nor were all supporters grounded in truth and logic, but I was close enough to the needs of the district to be convinced that failure of either of these measures would be devastating.

Now I'll have to keep my eye on the ball to make sure my own voice is heard in time NEXT year when the legislature should be looking at levy reform again. Many school districts struggle to muster the 60% required vote, or enough votes to validate the election. Quite a few have failed with a 58 or 59% Yes vote.


charlieahern said...

Congrats on your successful campaign!

Last year I volunteered as Treasurer against a slate of land use initiatives. We had an odd coalition: Chamber of Commerce, Sierra Club, the city council, League of Women Voters, building trades unions, League of Conversation Voters, and the Realtors to name a few. So, who were the proponents? A well-organized faction of local NIMBYs led by a group one person described as "white, male, Republicans over 60."

Here in California we struggle with the same problem of super-majorities required to pass taxes. Perhaps on the coat tails of Bush's re-election in '04, a local school parcel tax of $98 per year failed by 235 votes out of 47,728 total votes.

Rather than calling them "super-majority" elections, maybe we should re-frame them as "small veto" elections.

Scottage said...

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