Last Sunday, Bob Robb raised an issue of statutory interpretation concerning the education funding required under Prop. 301.
However, the provision was inartfully written. It says that “the Legislature shall increase the base level or other components of the revenue control limit” each year by two percent or inflation, whichever is less.
The base level is big bucks. Other components, not so much.
Given the budget squeeze, this year legislators decided just to increase the transportation portion of the state aid formula, an option the law, read literally, permits.
Educators have sued saying that the Legislature has to increase the whole enchilada, which was pretty clearly the intent.
So, what should justices do? Go with the law as written, or read into it something that isn't there but clearly intended?
I'd probably go with the law as written, but I wouldn't feel good about it.
Actually, this is a pretty easy call. Justice Scalia has literally written the book on statutory interpretation and his arguments have been so persuasive that even his opponents--most notably Justice Breyer--no longer argue the the courts should overturn clear language simply because they believe the language doesn't say what the drafters "really" meant.
In this case, "or" means "or". Any other interpretation would have the justices simply re-writing a clear statute.