Sunday, March 25, 2007

Why Does Bob Morton Hate Democracy?

Just kidding, Senator. Mostly.

The cyber lobbying tool on the WEA website is excellent; you can email your legislators on the issues of the day in under five minutes. At a council meeting last week we passed around a laptop computer and sent emails; I focused on the simple majority. To my surprise, I got a response in the mail yesterday from Bob Morton, my state senator!
Dear Ryan,

I have been very consistent in my position on retaining the requirement for a 60 percent validation on excess school levies, fire districts, cemetery districts, library districts, and others.

My premise is simply that it is too easy to raise taxes in this state.

Enclosed is a copy of a citizens guide that comments on many of the questions raised concerning K-12 funding.

I appreciate your taking the time to let me hear from you.

Cordially yours,

Bob Morton

I’ll acknowledge that I get where he’s coming from. Senator Morton seems like a true Reagan conservative who believes in smaller government, and in my district he’s been great for farmers.

On this, though, I think he’s dead wrong. The supermajority requirement for school levies makes a no vote 50% more valuable than a yes vote, and that’s unfair no matter how you try to spin it. Some in his party have tried to play the simple majority movement as a tax increase, but that seems like a jaundiced view at best when you consider that it’s still about what the voters decide.

The notion has been expressed, too, that school supporters have some sort of unfair advantage when it comes to getting levies passed, and that’s why we need the supermajority. That argument falls apart with only one word: Vader. Their levy was to decide the very life or death of the district, and it still failed to garner even a simple majority. If the anti-tax crowd in small-town Vader, Washington can get mobilized for an early spring election, why can’t that happen in every other town in the state? In this age of vote by mail, isn’t voting no easier than it’s ever been?

The other piece that annoys me about the hang-up in getting the simple majority bill through the legislature is that the bill itself wouldn’t repeal the supermajority; it would only place a constitutional amendment in front of the voters here in Washington to give them the option to repeal. That makes Senator Morton’s intractability on the issue a slap in two different ways: not only does he think that the voters can’t handle a simple majority, he refuses to even give them the chance, and that seems like exactly the wrong message for an elected official to send.

To Senator Morton I would say this: trust your constituency. If you believe that you represent good people of good intentions then there’s no reason to not give them the chance to decide the issue for themselves. If you don’t value their voice, then carry on, but know that you’ve made a powerful, negative statement about the people you represent.


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