One of my many reader pen pals, Steve Anderson of Eau Claire, has sent me another great idea that needs to be shared.
He's noted the propensity of this current batch of Republican legislators in charge at the state Capitol to require certain organizations to win the votes of 50% plus one of their total membership to win an election.
Public employee unions, for example, under former Gov. Scott Walker's infamous Act 10, must not only hold a vote each year to recertify their union, they must win by a majority of all its members, not just a majority of those who take the time to vote. This, of course, places a huge hurdle in front of a labor union to continue representing its members. That's the object, after all, of the whole GOP scheme. Members who don't vote for whatever reason are counted as a "no."
Then just the other day, a couple of the more conservative members of the Wisconsin Legislature's Republican caucus — Rep. Dave Murphy of Greenville and Sen. André Jacque of De Pere — introduced yet another bill to require supermajorities.
This one is aimed at students on the University of Wisconsin campuses around the state who, for the past several decades, have held referendums on financing recreational facilities, bus transportation, student organizations and other programs through their student fees. Madison students, for instance, passed a referendum a few years back to tear down the old "SERF" facility near the Kohl Center and replace it with a modern fitness facility that is slated to be open by the end of the year.
Getting a majority of the voters, however, wouldn't be enough under the Murphy-Jacque plot. The referendum would need to pass by 50% plus one of the entire student enrollment — and not in just one year, but in two consecutive elections. Just try getting 100% turnout in a student election.
In other words, these two "big supporters" of the UW would make it virtually impossible for such referendums to pass. They justify this because, they claim, the student fees are going up way too fast and they're only looking out for them.
What they forget, of course, is that student fees and tuition wouldn't be rising so much if the Legislature actually supported the university system. The state now provides about 15% of the Madison campus budget, yet politicians like Murphy and Jacque believe they should still have all the say. They'd rather let university facilities crumble than fix them up.
But, Steve Anderson has an even better idea, one that would likely rid the state of the Murphys and Jacques — and maybe even the dynamic duo of Robin Vos and Scott Fitzgerald.
If 50%-plus-one of all eligible voters is such a good idea for unions and university students, why shouldn't it be the way we elect legislators, too? To get elected, even in those gerrymandered districts, they'd need to get a majority of everyone over the age of 18 living in the district — not just for one year, but two in a row?
Now, admit it, wouldn't that be a great idea?
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org, 608-252-6410 and on Twitter @DaveZweifel.
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