Supes spar on initiative reform



An item on San Luis Obispo County’s legislative platform sparked disagreement between two elected officials during the Feb. 26 Board of Supervisors meeting.

The debate started when Supervisor Debbie Arnold asked to remove a proposal to lower the percentage of votes needed to approve some kinds of new taxes by ballot initiative.

The California initiative process requires approval by two-thirds of voters to implement new local taxes, for specific uses, a standard instituted by Proposition 13. The standing proposal would lower that threshold to 55 percent for library funding, gasoline, and sales taxes.

SLO County can’t change the standard itself, but could show lobbying support through its delegate to the California State Association of Counties. Arnold opposed such an endorsement.

“I think that when government does a good job showing need, the voters respond,” Arnold explained.

Supervisor Adam Hill responded by taking an assertive stance.

“We don’t have a two-thirds requirement to elect the president,” Hill said. “What’s the governance principle behind requiring two-thirds of the voters to pass a tax to support their libraries?”

Supervisors Frank Mecham and Paul Teixeira ultimately voted to suspend the item because they wanted more time to look at the proposal. The board voted 3-2 to remove initiative reform from the platform for now.

During the vote, Hill suggested that some of his colleagues voted against initiative reform to placate their friends who may oppose new taxes.

“We have simple majorities for everything else,” Hill told Arnold. “They don’t require you to be elected by a two-thirds vote.”

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