Nestled in the Oregon Senate Committee on Finance and Revenue's in-box is a measure that merits the serious attention it will receive in the next few weeks.

Senate Bill 80 repeals the constitutional requirement that at least 50 percent of the voters turn out for any elections that approve tax measures in order for the voting to count.

This pernicious provision lurked in one of those Bill Sizemore initiatives that Oregonians were persuaded to approve in order to "send the Legislature a message."

The November election results suggest Oregon voters no longer want to send that message, whatever they thought it was. Any initiative that had the discredited Sizemore's name attached to it failed.

Many of the provisions of Sizemore's intiatives are now in the Oregon Constitution and the question is what to do with them now that some voters are feeling "buyers' remorse."

That is the danger of amending the constitution with the political panacea de jour. When the voters change their minds, their elected representatives cannot deal with the problems created by changing public attitudes. That's the reason for Senate Bill 80.

One of the ways the conservatives sought to preserve their dogma against either political reform movements or voter changes of mind is locking supermajorities into the constitution. For example, it takes a three-fifth vote of the Legislature to pass a tax increase, but only a simple majority to pass tax exemptions.

Similarly, in any election involving tax levies, the results of the election don't count unless at least half the registered voters participate. The provision is perverse because not showing up is the same as voting no. It also tells those who meet their civic responsibility that their vote doesn't really count because it is offset by people who do not bother show up. This supermajority is simply undemocratic.

These important details are rarely debated adequately in the slogan-ridden crush of primary and general elections when a dozen or more intiatives are on the ballot.

The Senate Finance and Revenue Committee will hold hearings on Senate Bill 80 in the next few weeks just as soon as the committee finished background hearings on the state's tax system.

No statute can repeal a provision of the state constitution, of course, so if the Legislature approves SB 80 it will head for the May primary ballot where voters who have second thoughts about supermajorities will have their chance to express themselves.

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