Inside the Capitol

Saturday, October 14, 2006

10-18 Here's the Ballot Questions

Syndicated Columnist
SANTA FE -- Constitutional amendments and bond issues are the orphans of the general election ballot.
Millions of dollars and countless hours are spent by candidates promoting themselves, but with few exceptions, constitutional amendments and bond issues receive scant support or attention.
Two of the exceptions were the constitutional amendments Gov. Bill Richardson spent his first summer in office campaigning to get passed.
One of the amendments transferred authority over public schools from the state Board of Education to the governor. The other amendment increased the yearly amount of money from the state permanent fund that is earmarked for public schools.
Otherwise, constitutional amendments normally have only small, underfunded constituencies to back them. Bond issues usually have somewhat broader constituencies but they have no way of competing with candidates for voter attention.
So please pay attention to the following discussion of ballot issues because it likely will be the only time you will hear them discussed. With all the personal attacks and misleading ads by candidates, it may also be the only time you will hear issues discussed.
There is another reason to read about them here -- especially for us old folks. The print in this newspaper is a lot bigger than it will be on your ballot.
Only four constitutional amendments appear on the ballot this year. That is fewer than usual. We saw an upswing in amendment proposals during the Gary Johnson administration. His many vetoes of legislative measures prompted some lawmakers to try submitting their ideas directly to voters rather than to the governor.
Amendment 1 proposes to repeal a constitutional provision preventing certain people and businesses from owning property. It was added to our constitution in the early '20s when the nation became worried that the influx of Asians would take over our country.
The passage was rendered ineffective in 1975, by other legislation. This amendment is being promoted as clean up language to polish any negative image our state might receive from having a racial exclusion in our constitution.
Critics contend the amendment is unnecessary. Our constitution contains hundreds of ineffective and irrelevant passages. If clean up is necessary, let's have a constitutional convention to clean up all of our overly-long and detailed constitution.
Amendment 2 would allow the state and school districts, including charter schools to enter into lease purchase agreements for buildings in order to relieve severe financial constraints faced by many school districts. Critics argue that voter-approved bond elections are the only way to assure accountability.
Amendment 3 creates a water trust fund to support critically needed projects to preserve and protect our state's water supply. Proponents maintain putting it in the constitution will help attract more federal assistance. Critics point out it already is in law.
Amendment 4 broadens the use of affordable housing funds from current use only for infrastructure to allow land acquisition, construction, renovation and financing. Critics maintain there are too many abuses of affordable housing to liberalize it further.
Much additional information can be found on the secretary of state's Web site I personally have reservations about all of them.
Statewide bond issues always are the same. One is for senior citizen centers; one is for education and one is for other popular issues that might win voter approval. The Legislature has two other pots of money for projects it knows wouldn't stand a chance of winning statewide approval.
Senior citizen centers will turn out their clients to assure passage of Bond Question A. Colleges and universities will do a good job of convincing their communities of the building needs in Bond Question B. Libraries are the recipients of this year's Bond Question C. They may need some help.
WED, 10-18-06

JAY MILLER, 3 La Tusa, Santa Fe, NM 87505
(ph) 982-2723, (fax) 984-0982, (e-mail)



Post a Comment

<< Home