News In Brief
Voters Apparently Pass Ore. Anti-Tax Amendment
Oregon voters appeared last week to have passed a constitutional amendment that would require a three-fifths vote of both houses of the state legislature to approve tax increases.
Early returns showed that about 52 percent of voters had endorsed the measure in a May 21 election, but the state's large number of mail-in ballots delays official results.
The amendment was put on the ballot by the 1995 legislature. Education groups opposed it, noting that schools rely heavily on state revenues that would become more difficult to raise.
The new threshold for approving taxes may have little practical effect, however. School lobbyists pointed out that the legislature generally puts tax increases before the people for a vote.
After seeing his state's legislature pass ground-breaking learning-standards legislation, Maine's commissioner of education, Wayne Mowatt, announced he will retire July 1.
During Mr. Mowatt's 15-month tenure, the state made significant changes in its school-aid formula, a move that this year will add income and cost-of-living adjustments to the calculations.
Mr. Mowatt also helped orchestrate the education department's reorganization, which resulted in the reduction of about 40 jobs.
He also supported the new state standards, which were approved only after lengthy public debate. The state school board currently is drafting rules to further define the standards.
"It has been a challenging and at times difficult task, and Wayne has performed well," said Gov. Angus S. King Jr. in a statement. "But I understand his decision and I wish him well in his future endeavors."
Asked about the reasons for Mr. Mowatt's departure, Rep. Michael Brennan, a member of the joint education committee, said: "My sense was that the give and take in the legislative process was something he wasn't used to. There was only more of that to come as the learning results come forward."
Mr. Mowatt, 62, could not be reached for comment. Before becoming commissioner, he served as the superintendent of the 550-student Maine School Administrative District 24 in Van Buren.