Direct Public Participation Needed
By Alex Saitta
April 28, 2017
I wrote this letter to the editor a few days ago.
I watch along with others as a long-term roads bill fails again in the state legislature. Some are against a higher gas tax, others want income taxes cut and others insist on SCDOT reform. Few are satisfied with how the state government is working on the problem.
It reminds me of the illegal immigration problem at the federal level. Everyone knows there is a problem, realize a solution is overdue, but the political system can't decide on a plan. This is more evidence many of our problems have become too daunting for the political system in place to solve. Instead of more fighting/gridlock on the issues, we should turn our focus to reforming the political process.
First the legislature will determine a top issue each session. Let's say this year it is a multi-year road funding plan. The legislature/governor would have a few months to formulate and pass a plan the old-fashioned way. If they can't, the different factions would formulate competing plans and they’d all go to public referendum. Option A would be higher gas tax only. Option B a higher gas tax and SCDOT reform. Option C a higher gas tax, cut in income tax and SCDOT reform. Option D do nothing.
Without such an end-game reform, major problems will continue to pile up.
Other reforms that are needed in the governmental process include public initiative to create laws or ordinance the public thinks fit. Additionally, the public should be give the authority to repeal the decisions of the state legislature and those of local councils and boards using petition and referendum. For instance, if Mr. Smith thinks there should be 9 seats on the county council, he would have to collect signatures of 10% of registered voters in order to put that on the ballot in November. If he did, and it was put on the ballot and voted for then there would be 9 seats on the county council. If Mr. Jones didn't like that Holly Springs School was closed, he could collect 10% signatures, get the re-open Holly Springs question on the ballot and if it was approved, the school would be re-opened.
Our political leaders, lobbyists and special interest groups aren’t going like the increased public participation, but they’ve had years to solve some of our major problems, have failed and it is time to turn some of these problems over to the people.