Simple majority fails by one vote in House

POULSBO — At least one North Kitsap school board member was disappointed by the Washington State House’s failure to pass a bill that might have have made it easier for voters to pass school levies.

The bill would have let voters decide whether to change the state Constitution, which was altered in 1944 to say that levies must be passed by “super majority” (60 percent of the vote) rather than “simple majority (50 percent).

“There’s so much energy spent trying to get a super majority that should be spent in the classroom,” school board member Catherine Ahl said. “The president can be elected with less than 50 percent of a vote; they certainly don’t need a super majority.”

While the bill got a majority of the voters (65-31), including the support of Representatives Beverly Woods and Phil Rockefeller, it fell short of the required two-thirds majority by a single vote.

School board representatives from North, Central, South Kitsap and Bremerton school districts had met with state legislators in November and told the legislators that the simple-majority bill was one of their top priorities.

Ahl said that an amendment to the bill which was added in committee (and later voted down during negotiations), would have provided for a simple majority to pass a levy only during a primary or general election. This provision made the bill less appealing, according to Ahl. Levies are often run during special elections in February or March, she said, because it gives districts more time to financially plan the school year, or even time to run the levy again in the same year if needed.

But a levy run during a primary or general election, held toward the end of the year, would be more difficult to manage, Ahl said.

“That was a big problem,” she said.

But overall, Ahl is flummoxed as to why the legislators would vote against a bill that would have simply put the simple majority option on a statewide ballot.

“Every one of those representatives (who voted against the bill) has a school district in their district,” she said. “I don’t know how they’re going to explain this to their voters.”

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