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State Journal: Referendum fears; Remedial manners

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Warning of the potential dangers to education posed by the initiative and referendum process, the powerful New Jersey Education Association is vowing to oppose a new effort to give voters in that state the authority to approve their own laws.

Gov. James J. Florio, the besieged Democrat who watched his party trounced during a taxpayers' revolt last fall, has called on the legislature to adopt I. & R. The leadership of the new Republican majority in the legislature is also seeking such a measure.

What concerns many educators in the state, though, is the specter of California's Proposition 13 and Massachusetts' Proposition 2 1/2--tax limitations approved by voters that have had a devastating impact on education funding.

"Initiative and referendum appears to be democratic," said Robert A. Bonazzi, the executive director of N.J.E.A. "However, what it does is create disunity in the communities."

"Property taxpayers differ from other folks," Mr. Bonazzi added. "The bottom line is that education does suffer because people begin to vote on things without a full knowledge."

The N.J.E.A. contends that I. & R. enables narrowly focused special-interest groups with deep pockets to wield undue influence. "The people who win are the advertising firms and the political consultants and not the public," the union official maintained.

Leave the policymaking to lawmakers, Mr. Bonazzi urged, and let the public decide with its vote if they are doing a good job.

After two years of cuts in the state school-aid budget, the politics of education in Alabama is turning testy.

The strain on educators, parents, and state officials was apparent at a rally sponsored by the state P.T.A. at the beginning of the legislative session early this month.

The marchers, who were demanding a funding increase for the schools--which most observers see as affordable only with a tax hike-reportedly gave a less-than-friendly reception to state leaders who addressed them.

Speaker of the House Jimmy Clark, for example, was greeted with boos even though he promised to consider a tax increase recently proposed by a state task force.

Gov. Guy Hunt's reception was even more hostile, leading the Governor to tell reporters afterward that the crowd could use some remedial help in manners.

"That sort of thing is uncalled for," Mr. Hunt said. "People have got to come together. You can't do that by being impolite." --R.D. & H.D.

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