Minnesota lawmakers remove reverse referendums from state law
Minnesota: This month the Minnesota State Senate decided to remove a provision in state law that permitted reverse referendums less than a year after a Becker County District Court judge ruled that petitioners could not place a question that called for the reversal of a Frazee-Vergas School District levy referendum on the November 4, 2008 ballot. Controversy about the ballot law came about specifically in 2008 during the Frazee-Vergas School District reverse referendum debate. A levy referendum passed in 2007 but in 2008 residents submitted a petition to place the measure back on the ballot. Lawmakers said that it was not fair that cities and counties could raise levies without voter permission, but school districts could not. School district supporters of the reverse referendum law change had hoped to convince the legislature to change the number of required signatures to 30%, from its current 15%. The possibility of a reverse referendum taking away new tax dollars made it difficult for school districts to plan for the future, Greg Abbott, director of communications for the Minnesota Association of School Districts, said. The Senate, however, decided to eliminate the provision in its entirety. Minnesota Rep. Bud Nornes carried the bill, which included an increase in signatures to 30%, in the House of Representatives and Sen. Dan Skogen did the same. But before the bill passed in the Senate Education Committee, Sen. Claire Robling made the motion to eliminate the provision. Robling said her reasoning was that if it’s not being used, then maybe it’s not needed then. “It’s not like we took something away that was used often and now it’s gone,” said Nornes. But, Frazee petitioner Oscar Birkeland said otherwise about the lawmakers decision, "I guess maybe I’m real old-fashioned — I think citizens should have some rights. Citizens pay the bills and should have some say in it."