Please visit our new blog - The Union News.

"Vote early and vote often." - Al Capone (1899-1947)

Sunday, March 4, 2007

Low-turnout rule

State and local officials cry crocodile tears
"You have no idea what the unions will do to us, to our families."

SALEM - Oregon's sometimes quirky Constitution came under assault Wednesday by state and local officials, who demanded repeal of the "voter participation law" that requires 25% of registered voters' approval for local tax measures. The apparatchiks want to make it easier to win tax elections when fewer voters are convinced that it is important to participate.

The crybaby officials, from school districts, cities, counties, library districts and other local entities, whined to the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee that the popularly-approved requirement is "undemocratic" and has resulted in the defeat of tax measures that enjoyed the widespread support of government unions, who call it the "double majority rule."

The voter participation law was defended by Jason Williams, executive director of the Taxpayer Association of Oregon.

Williams compared the law to legislative bodies requiring a quorum of members before they can do business and said the term "double majority" was misleading. He reminded the lawmakers that local property tax measures must be approved by a majority in a 50-percent turnout election, and that in a decade under the voter participation law only 6% of 1,117 local tax elections were involved. "Looked at that way, it's not so onerous," Williams said.

Under the law, which voters added to the Oregon Constitution in 1996, passage of bond and other measures that would raise property taxes requires a majority of voters to participate. So if tax hikers cannot muster 50 percent turnout for their cause, the measure automatically fails.

Any changes to the voter participation law would require approval by Oregon voters.

Secretary of State Bill Bradbury is pushing for a constitutional amendment, Senate Joint Resolution 10, that would repeal the voter participation law. Bradbury and Our Oregon, the consortium of the state's most powerful government unions, complained that the "double majority rule" prevents them from sneaking tax increases through in low-turnout elections, as was commonplace before 1996. Patty Wentz testified for Our Oregon, known as the 800-lb. gorilla of Oregon politics, reminding committee members, "We know where you live."

In 1998 voters rejected the Legislature's attempt to repeal the popular law, after litigation brought by a coalition of government and government union lawyers to have the law declared unconstitutional failed before the Oregon Supreme Court. If approved by the Legislature, Bradbury's amendment would be placed on the May 2008 primary ballot.

The Oregonian, Mar. 1 by EDWARD WALSH

No comments:

Label Cloud