Bal­lot ques­tions await vot­ers Nov. 8

Statewide ref­er­en­dum asks about re­tire­ment age for judges; 2 Ch­ester County mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties also have ques­tions on bal­lot

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - FRONT PAGE - By Linda Finarelli lfinarelli@21st-cen­tu­ry­ @lk­finarelli on Twit­ter

A ref­er­en­dum ask­ing vot­ers if they want 75 to be the manda­tory age of re­tire­ment for judges in Penn­syl­va­nia will ap­pear on the bal­lot Nov. 8, though the word­ing has been in dis­pute since be­fore the pri­mary.

The lan­guage in the bal­lot ques­tion has been chal­lenged for ne­glect­ing to state that the cur­rent manda­tory re­tire­ment age is 70, so that a “yes” vote means ex­tend­ing the amount of time a judge could serve by five years.

If the bal­lot ques­tion is ap­proved, jus­tices, judges and mag­is­te­rial dis­trict judges would be re­tired on the last day of the cal­en­dar year in which they turn 75.

The pro­posed amend­ment to the Penn­syl­va­nia Con­sti­tu­tion was ini­tially slated to run on the pri­mary bal­lot. The word­ing asked if vot­ers wanted to change the manda­tory re­tire­ment age from 70 to 75, but the Repub­li­can­led Leg­is­la­ture voted to change the word­ing, leav­ing out the cur­rent re­tire­ment age, and put it on the gen­eral elec­tion bal­lot in Novem­ber.

The new manda­tory age re­quire­ment would ap­ply to all 1,027 state judges, of whom 19 will turn 70 in 2016, Jim Ko­val, spokesman for the Ad­min­is­tra­tive Of­fice of Penn­syl­va­nia Courts, had said when the con­tro­versy be­gan last spring.

At the high­est level, Penn­syl­va­nia Supreme Court Chief Jus­tice Thomas Say­lor will turn 70 this year, and Supreme Court Jus­tice Max Baer turns 70 next year.

Those who have chal­lenged the word­ing say it is in­tended to de­ceive vot­ers.

The state Supreme Court dead­locked on mak­ing a de­ci­sion on a le­gal chal­lenge filed by for­mer state Supreme Court Jus­tices Ron­ald D. Castille and Stephen Zap­pala Sr. and Philadel­phia lawyer Richard A. Sprague, and the case is cur­rently pend­ing in Com­mon­wealth Court. As of Oct. 6, the court had not is­sued an opin­ion.

Other bal­lot ques­tions

In ad­di­tion to the statewide bal­lot ques­tion, two Ch­ester County mu­nic­i­pal­i­ties and two Montgomery County town­ships will be ask­ing vot­ers to weigh in on ref­er­en­dums spe­cific to their ju­ris­dic­tions.

Ch­ester County

Newlin Town­ship vot­ers will be asked to vote on a ref­er­en­dum to in­crease real es­tate prop­erty taxes by 0.15 mills, or 15 cents per $1,000 of as­sessed value, to be used to pur­chase open space.

In Malvern Bor­ough ,a bal­lot ques­tion will ask if res­i­dents want to limit the amount of time a per­son would be per­mit­ted to serve on bor­ough coun­cil.

The pro­posed re­vi­sion would pro­hibit any per­son from run­ning for bor­ough coun­cil for more than two con­sec­u­tive terms. Af­ter serv­ing two elected terms, a per­son would not be el­i­gi­ble for re-elec­tion to a third term. It would also pro­hibit any per­son from be­ing ap­pointed to two con­sec­u­tive un­ex­pired terms or serv­ing any part of three con­sec­u­tive terms by ap­point­ment or elec­tion.

The change would ap­ply to both the cur­rent and fu­ture mem­bers of bor­ough coun­cil.

Montgomery County

Vot­ers in Lower More­land Town­ship will be asked if they would agree to in­crease the earned in­come tax by 0.25 per­cent to be used to pur­chase open space, re­cre­ation, park and his­tor­i­cal lands, and de­velop and main­tain the open space.

The ex­ist­ing 1 per­cent earned in­come tax is split be­tween the town­ship and school dis­trict, and the ad­di­tional quar­ter per­cent would go into a des­ig­nated open space fund, ac­cord­ing to town­ship Man­ager Christo­pher Hoff­man. It is es­ti­mated the ad­di­tional 0.25 per­cent would gen­er­ate be­tween $800,000 and $900,000 an­nu­ally, he said.

In Up­per Prov­i­dence Town­ship, vot­ers will be asked whether or not they want to add two su­per­vi­sors to the Up­per Prov­i­dence Board of Su­per­vi­sors, ex­pand­ing it from the cur­rent three-mem­ber board to a five-mem­ber board.

The ref­er­en­dum was placed on the bal­lot through a pe­ti­tion, signed by 900 town­ship res­i­dents, gen­er­ated by Up­per Prov­i­dence First, a po­lit­i­cal ac­tion com­mit­tee formed by town­ship res­i­dents Jim White, for­mer Su­per­vi­sor John Pear­son and Tax Col­lec­tor Julie Mullin, ac­cord­ing to White. The rea­son to ex­pand the board is three­fold, he said: Up­per Prov­i­dence, with 23,000 res­i­dents, “is the fastest-grow­ing town­ship in Penn­syl­va­nia;” sur­round­ing town­ships have five-mem­ber boards — Hor­sham has five mem­bers and 26,000 res­i­dents; and “there is a lot go­ing on in the town­ship and there are some con­flicts of in­ter­est.”

The chair­man of the board is mar­ried to the head of parks and re­cre­ation, for ex­am­ple, so he can’t vote on that part of the bud­get, White said.

“The board is dis­cussing a $10 mil­lion loan to redo the town­ship build­ing, and we felt on top of the growth, with what’s go­ing on and the money they’re look­ing to spend, two ad­di­tional eyes are needed on ev­ery­thing,” White said.

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