Petition season is in full drive and I wanted to do a post about various issues aspiring to be on this November’s Ballot, and pass along some of the local media coverage of the process. From a few submitted early to one that's not yet gathered a single signature, the coming weeks will be provide ample opportunities to sign for the good, the bad and the ugly. The media is also likely to continue it's biennal coverage of some of the problems that exist with the way signatures are gathered. For now, here's some information and a few of my thoughts....
On May 26th, there was a whole gaggle of initiatives that were submitted to the Secretary of State’s Office (would this be a good place for the disclaimer? I work for the Secretary of State but do not speak for the office, especially here on Blue Oregon). IP’s 14, 23, 24, 57 and 102 all submitted signatures for early verification. A quick run-down of what’s come in:
- 14 would seek to bankrupt the state “by allowing taxpayers to claim the more generous personal exemption used for federal income taxes.”
- IP 23 is Bill Sizemore’s odd initiative that prohibits credit checks when getting insurance. I don’t know what’s wrong with this other than I thought Bill Sizemore had been banned from the business. I hope someone will chime in and enlighten me, with his name attached there’s certainly something wrong (maybe he's just pissed because he couldn't get insurance because he has a $3 million dollar judgment against him?).
- IP 24 is the districting of judges (which apparently failed to provide enough signatures to even be sent out to counties for verification, but they still have until July 7th to keep trying).
- IP 57 is Oregonians in Action’s attempt to stay in the political game by prohibiting the government from seizing land that will subsequently go to a private party.
- IP 102 is the Corporate Accountability Act Corporate Accountability, which the Oregon Education Association and its progressive allies have smartly decided against pursuing for the sake of playing the defensive on IP 14 and TABOR.
Next, and to get it out of the way, Ben Westlund’s campaign has been gathering signatures for a while now and they claim to be close to the 5000 mark. Only 13,364 or so to go, but he has a little longer than initiative petitions. Steve Duin's column Sunday where he begins to try to unravel Westlund, who has apparently had socially progressive rebirth in recent months. We can expect that Westlund’s effort will be stepped up after July 7th when the initiative petition signatures are due. But that still might not be enough. The last post here at Blue Oregon covers this in more detail.
According to the Oregonian’s Political Blog:
Keisling acknowledged that “despite a concerted and vigorous effort,” supporters of the measure fell short of gathering enough signatures to submit them by May 26, the “early submission” deadline set by the secretary of state’s office. (The final deadline is July 7 to submit at least 75,630 valid signatures.) Keisling said the main reason they fell short was that the signature gathering firm they hired decided to shift people to other, “far better funded initiatives.”
Let me be clear that I am not supportive of this effort. I’ve warmed to it slightly in recent days but is in itself is political trickery. The sponsors would have you believe that if we just get rid of Party labels, the Tom McCall’s and Wayne Morse’s would just come out of the woodwork and return us to the good old days of Oregon politics. Wrong. It’s not how we elect people that’s the problem, but who chooses to run.
But even with the extended deadline, there’s evidence that Open Primary won’t make the ballot. Democracy Resources, who has consistently been a premium sponsor of this blog, is collecting their signatures, which may be evidence it’s on shaky ground. You’ll note that some of the articles referenced in this post refer to unfulfilled promises because they apparently can’t keep enough staff on board (which may be why they wisely always advertise for staff here). Democracy Resources generally circulates progressive measures but in 2004 they circulated the medical malpractice measure that ultimately drew millions of dollars away from other progressive causes. This year they also gathered signatures to repeal Portland’s Voter-Owned Elections and are currently working with Westlund, so their progressive credentials have been slightly tarnished for the sake of business.
IP #143 has been abandoned by its sponsors. This measure would have raised cigarette taxes by 60 cents per pack in order to pay for health care for children in Oregon. It’s too bad that while over 125,000 Oregon children go uninsured that the same Democracy Resources just mentioned, somehow deems it more important to gather signatures for Westlund’s candidacy than an initiative in which he was a Chief Sponsor. According the to above linked article:
But the deathblow came late last week when Democracy Resources, a firm hired to manage the signature-gathering, told sponsors that they would not have enough paid staff to do the job.
Also left in the garbage pile for this year is the Healthy Oregon Plan, which would have required the legislature to “establish a basic framework for basic universal health care will also fall short. Sponsors have conceded they won’t be able to gather enough signatures to get it on the ballot.
But wait, there is still HOPE? The only healthcare measure still vying for the ballot is the HOPE initiative. Unfortunately Democracy Resources was gathering their signatures too and there’s an 800 pound gorilla getting ready to walk in the room: the proposed Casino.
For now, here comes the big one: a casino in Wood Village. That’s right, it’s been cleared by the court and may be on the street soon. The backers of this initiative are planning to collect over 100,000 signatures before July 7th and only when they do, they’ll tell you who has been funding their ongoing effort. The Oregonian editorialized Saturday against signing under such circumstances. I agree. Here’s a snippet:
The state does require groups such as the "Good for Oregon Committee," the pro-casino group headed by Studer and Rossman, to submit campaign contribution and expenditure reports. But the reporting requirements and deadlines are too lax. With court clearance, the Good for Oregon Committee has until July 7 to get 175,000 signatures. But it doesn't have to report until July 24 the sources of the money it used to pay for collection of those signatures. That's no help at all to Oregonians being asked to sign on to the casino.
Maybe we can advocate during the upcoming legislative session for a change to law that requires gatherers to report, oh I don’t know monthly, on who is paying for their political activity. Yesterday’s Oregonian had a rather extensive piece on some of the loopholes that exist for initiatives.
If the Casino initiative chooses to move forward with gathering signatures, they have the ability to crush most other issues with hopes of being on the ballot. The amount of money they may have to put into this effort will lure petition gatherers from far and wide. That will hurt a couple of progressive issues and is unfortunately unlikely to stop a gaggle of conservative issues that are much closer to their magic numbers.
Last week Scott Moore over at the Mercury highlighted some of the tricks that petition gatherers are currently playing, mainly drawing Portlanders in on a liberal issue and then without ample explanation asking them to sign multiple conservative petitions. These “mercenaries” are a problem with our system. Not only because they come from out of state but because outside of those who pay their check, Oregonians have no idea who they are. They could easily be the guys (and gals) who once worked at your local Hollywood Video just trying to get along, or they could be shipped in from out of state with no interest in Oregon other than a paycheck.
All in all, there’s going to be a lot of activity in the coming weeks. We’ll say goodbye to some good ideas for now, hello to some bad ones and continue to scratch our heads at Bill Sizemore. For now, that's my Roundup but if you have links or information on these or other initiatives that you want to bring up, feel free to pop them into the comments.