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Wednesday, June 01, 2005

Next Act Please

- The results are in from school districts in Pennsylvania regarding Act 72, and the result is not pretty for Governor Ed Rendell, who made property tax relief one of the main issues in his election campaign. But the plan, which would have required school boards to put property tax increases up for voter approval in return for property owners receiving slots-funded cuts, proved about as popular as the European Constitution, and was rejected by about 400 of the 500 districts.

According to an article in the NY Times today, Pennsylvania is in fact the only state where school boards are virtually unfettered in their abilities to increase property taxes. So in order to participate and allow property tax cuts, the boards would have had to voluntarily relinquish that right, and Rendell, in a classic understatement, said, "It probably was a flawed concept to allow the people whose power you are restricting to vote on this.” [NY Times] Seems as flawed as the idea that the minority Sunni Arabs in Iraq would peacefully participate in elections. The governor is seeking to place the blame squarely on the school boards.

Rendell said he believed that 99 percent of the districts that stayed out of the plan did so because local school officials wanted to hold on to their own power to tax, an argument those officials rejected.

"We were listening to our constituents," said Rob Morgan, a school board member in the Pottstown, Montgomery County, school district and a vocal Act 72 opponent.[Philly Inquirer]
Remember that the property-tax cut would have been accompanied by an income tax increase that would have cancelled out the cut for high-income residents, and made the whole deal a loser for renters. Now, there are various ideas about how to proceed, including a proposal to put the question directly to the homeowners.

The Act 72 mess could be small potatoes compared to the debacle Rendell could find himself over Act 71, which is the bill that actually legalized slots in the state. It is being challenged in court as being unconstitutional, and a decision is expected soon. The state constitution states that ''no bill shall be so altered or amended, on its passage through either House, as to change its original purpose.''
The pending challenge to the slots law now before the state Supreme Court is that an original one-page bill authorizing state police background checks for employees of horse racing tracks was heard three times in the House and twice in the Senate, appeasing the state Constitution. However, on final required consideration in the Senate, the original bill was completely lined out and replaced with a 145-page amendment legalizing slots gambling in Pennsylvania. With no conference and no debate, both chambers gave it thumbs up, and Gov. Rendell signed it into law, all while we grilled burgers and weenies over 2004's Fourth of July weekend. []
- More on the Hall of Fame voting – the rules were changed this year to require that an inductee be named on 75% of the ballots. Thus, there were no inductees amongst the jockey and horse nominations.
None of the jockeys on the ballot — Eddie Maple, Craig Perret, Randy Romero, Jose Santos and Milo Valenzuela — received the necessary 75%. The last year at least one jockey wasn't elected was 1986.

"I told them that this would happen," said Joe Hirsch, retired Daily Racing Form columnist and a former chairman of the hall's nominating committee. "[Somebody] got this 75% idea about 20 years ago, and they finally resurrected it. You can't get 75% of any group to agree about anything. I would certainly hope that they change this rule."

Silver Charm, who won the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness and the Dubai World Cup, earning almost $7 million, seemed to be a favorite in the male-horse category, but he was up against formidable opposition. Also on the ballot were Lure, a two-time Breeders' Cup winner; the grass standout Manila; Housebuster, twice a champion sprinter; and Best Pal.

The female-horse ballot, which consisted of Inside Information, Mom's Command, Open Mind, Silverbulletday and Sky Beauty, was also a tough vote. [LA Times]
Silver Charm called for a recount.