One of the concepts moving through the halls of the state legislature this year is Reverse Referendum. I’m not sure of the origin of the “reverse” term within the “Reverse Referendum”, but it works something like this: City Councils would adopt a proposed tax levy for the upcoming budget year, publish it, and then wait. During the waiting period, citizens would have the opportunity to generate a petition with a minimum threshhold of signatures, perhaps 5% or 10% of the number of people that voted in the most recent City-wide election. If the minimum threshhold of signatures is achieved, the citizens of the City would be asked to vote on the final approval of the City Council’s proposed tax levy. If a majority of the citizens voting in the referendum vote against the proposed tax levy, it would not be implemented. If it passed, it would be implemented.
Now, there are lots of details to work out, but that’s the general concept. The legislators in favor of this concept favor it because they believe it provides citizens a means to cool off a Council that is out of control with its spending. That’s what I’ve heard them say. Legislators who do not favor Reverse Referendum generally do not favor it because they believe that local government officials ought to sink or swim by their own actions. In other words, if a City Council is out of control with its spending, its citizens are free to vote the members of that Council out of office. In this mindset, Reverse Referendum is not necessary because the natural course of elections allows citizens to reward and punish their locally elected officials every two or four years.
One of the more interesting moves on this subject came on the floor of the State House of Representatives today came from Bloomington DFL Representative Ann Lenczewski.
Rep. Lenczewski proposed an amendment to the House Tax Bill that would have applied the concept of Reverse Referendum to the State Government, if it was also applied to cities and counties. The bill was written with the inclusion of Reverse Referendum for cities and counties, so it was an interesting character study to see how individual legislators acted on her amendment.
I am sad to report that what is good for the goose is not good for the gander, at least according to the Minnesota House of Representatives. The House voted to approve the bill including the Reverse Referendum provisions for local governments, but voted against applying it to themselves.
I felt like I was watching a replay of the concealed carry debate where state legislators banned the carrying of concealed handguns in the chambers of state government, but specifically allowed guns to be carried into city halls and county courthouses. In fact, that legislation specifically denies cities and counties the opportunity to ban concealed weapons from their buildings.
I know what to call it, but I’m trying to find a more polite word for it………