Volksbegehren gegen Studiengebühren

“Referendum against tuition fees.” The states run the universities in Germany. Usually they charge very low tuition fees by US standards or university is free and students just have to pay registration and student union fees and buy subsidized cheap universal health insurance (includes dental and medicine). After some states experimented with introducing tuition fees in the 1990’s, almost all the states unintroduced them except Bavaria and Lower Saxony. In 2012, Bavarian citizens collected the 25,000 signatures required for a referendum to let people vote directly to eliminate college tuition throughout the state.

Though Bavarians have the Volksbegehren option, it’s hard to pass a referendum in practice. In 1968 the Bavarian state parliament (Landtag) made conditions for passing direct referenda much tougher, reducing the time frame from four weeks to two, banning public solicitation of signatures in the street or door-to-door, while requiring signatures of 10% of all registered voters for passage and, writes Hans Herbert von Arnim, making mail-in ballots much more difficult [von Arnim, Die Selbstbediener, pp. 162–3].

Before the voters had a chance to decide on the anti-tuition referendum however, Bavaria’s Interior Ministry (CSU) filed a complaint against it with the Bavarian constitutional court or Verfassungsgerichtshof in Munich saying the referendum was unconstitutional because it would affect Bavaria’s budget. The Bavarian constitutional court has interpreted the state’s so-called “budget caveat” or Haushaltsvorbehalt to mean that referenda that would cost money, i.e. most of them, can be kept from a vote if they will impact the state budget in a way that isn’t slight [von Arnim, p. 173].

Bavaria’s supreme or constitutional court is a bit unusual in Germany [von Arnim, p. 27] and possibly one reason voters might be glad to have a direct referendum option. Federal German constitutional court judges have to be elected by a 2/3 parliamentary majority, to prevent judiciary dominance by one party; they have a 12-year term; and they cannot be reelected. Bavarian constitutional court judges have been mainly elected by the CSU party, because it has governed the state since 1946; they have an eight-year term; and they can be reelected an unlimited number of times.

In October 2012, the Bavarian constitutional court decided eliminating college tuition would not affect the state budget and allowed the referendum to proceed. In January 2013 the referendum passed with over 1.3 million signatures. In response, the Bavarian Landtag or state parliament quickly passed a law eliminating college tuition on 24 Apr 2013.

(FOKES beg AIR en   GAY gen   SHTOO dee en geh BOO ren.)

Auf dem reichen Auge blind

Blind in the rich eye,” a punning headline for a Zeit article about Bayern Munich soccer club president Uli Hoeneß that reminded readers Bavaria is the state with the least number of tax auditors per capita and the least number of audits per auditor (29 audits per 100,000 taxpayers in 2011). Taxes are still collected state-by-state in Germany, not by a central federal office like the USA’s IRS.

“Steep theses,” “sometimes tending toward polemics” this review said but also that the 2013 book Die Selbstbediener: Wie Bayerische Politiker sich den Staat zur Beute machen (“Serving themselves: How Bavarian politicians make the state their booty”) by Speyer professor Hans Herbert von Arnim started the recent discussion about the Bavarian CSU party (which has monopolized their state gubmint for fifty years and is also the only state party to join national-level ruling coalitions, such as Angela Merkel’s current government CDU/CSU + FDP). People are still shocked by the 500 million euros recently discovered in Uli Hoeneß’s Swiss bank accounts and by the number of Bavarian MP’s (17, no 30, no 79) subsequently discovered to have taken advantage of loopholes in a 2000 nepotism law to hire their relatives at government expense. Von Arnim says the nepotism is just the tip of the iceberg for upcoming Bavarian parliamentary scandals.

Other emerging facts that shocked this week included: that the Bavarian state parliament members (CSU monopoly) complained loudest about southern European countries takin’ all our money yet paid themselves the highest income of all the German state MP’s, at 10,200 euros/month before taxes. Von Arnim says this is possible because of a lack of transparency in Bavarian state budgeting which other German states have deliberately prevented by passing separate rules governing important financial issues such as legislator compensation. He criticizes insufficient transparency and controlling in Bavaria’s very large budget, which is the size of several other German states’ combined.

How can corruption like this happen? Recent angry op-eds said the newly discovered nepotistic politicians aren’t exactly Raffke (Berlin slang from ~1920 for a greedy grabber) but that after a party is in power for a long time its members’ mentality can shift. Politicians in the party no longer orient their moral sense on what’s right and wrong, but instead on what the other politicians are doing and, eventually, toward what’s possible. Politicians in other parties of the monopolized government begin to think the same way as well. So far the only party in the Bavarian parliament not discovered to have employed family members after 2000 is the FDP, which wasn’t in the state parliament because it lacked the votes.

(Ow! f   dame   REICH en   ow! ga    blinned.)

 

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