The minority rules | August 29, 2008 | Danville Express | |

Danville Express

Perspective - August 29, 2008

The minority rules

In California, the minority rules. A two-thirds supermajority is needed to pass the state budget and we can see where that lands us each year. In 18 of the last 22 years, our legislators have not passed the budget anywhere near the July 1 deadline. One-third plus one of the legislators can and do hold up the process.

Also for the last 30 years, two-thirds of the voters have been needed to approve any parcel tax, thanks to the taxpayers revolt that passed Proposition 13 in 1978. Again, the minority rules.

"Majority" means more than half or, in the case of an election, just one vote over. So by requiring a two-thirds vote, if a measure turns out to be approved by 65 percent of the voters, it's not enough and the minority has the final word. In most elections, 60 percent is considered a landslide. But when it comes to parcel taxes - or the state budget - the landslide is ignored and the minority makes the decision.

It is not easy to get two-thirds of the electorate to support anything, as backers of the parcel tax for the San Ramon Valley Unified School District can verify. Their Measure D lost in June even though it was supported by 63.52 percent of those who went to the polls, or 20,675 voters. Luckily the state legislature lowered the threshold to pass school construction bonds to 55 percent, so our school campuses are receiving the funds they need to update our facilities through bond measures.

California is only one of three states that require a two-thirds vote for the budget; the others are Arkansas and Rhode Island. California's rule was enacted in 1933 during the Depression, with the idea that it would hold down spending but we can see this hasn't worked. These two-thirds supermajority requirements need to be reconsidered. The minority should not rule.