Defeat the Bad Nike Bill so questions can be aired

Chris Lowe

There are a number of reasons the Bad Nike Bill should be defeated. The Bad Nike Bill, due to considered in a one-day special session of the Legislature on Friday, is also called the Economic Impact Investment Act, according to an email from Senator Diane Rosenbaum sent to her constituents a little while ago.

A terrible undemocratic railroad process is being used to push the Bad Nike Bill through. That process alone is reason to defeat it. The process leaves no adequate time for deliberation, debate or even real understanding, either by the legislature or the public.

Here are a few fundamental questions the bill raises that need airing:

1) The bill purports to give governors the power to make deals with companies that restrict future laws. Can the legislature and the governor restrict the power of the People, acting as a legislature of the whole, to make laws that apply to all corporations in the state, under Oregon's constitutional initiative and referendum?

2) The bill purports to give governors the power to make deals with companies that bind the actions of future legislatures. Does the legislature have the power under the constitution to concede its legislative authority to governors in this way?

3) The bill purports to give governors the power to make deals with companies that bind the actions of future legislatures. Does the legislature have the power under the constitution to bind future legislatures, by mere statute, rather than a constitutional referral to the People?

There are any number of other questions that deserve debate and airing, like, even supposing it were agreed that such deals were o.k. in principle (they aren't):

Are the remedies for breach of the contracts by the company remotely strong enough? How should we understand the mismatch between the claim of 12.000 jobs being used in the p.r. campaign for the bill, vs. the legislation mentioning no number except 500 jobs? Should any such contracts be more constrained by the law itself to protect the public interests against the power of large companies, especially ones like Nike with bad labor and environmental records?

In sum, what is Nike really getting out of this deal, and what are we? If the upsides are really as good and as strong as claimed, why aren't they guaranteed in the law?

A huge question about the context is: Should we allow ourselves to be stampeded by fear and the power of a large corporation in a time of economic hardship? Isn't that pretty much the moral equivalent of extortion? Is that any way to run a state or make public policy?

Comments

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    I can't "like", so "like!"

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    This isn't about fear, it's about giving the Governor the tools he needs to retain new businesses and recruit new ones into the state.

    Posts like this one and Nick's give credence to Republican claims that Democrats don't understand or care about economic development.

    Thankfully, I believe that you and Nicholas are on a pretty lonely island on this issue.

    This bill will pass overwhelmingly, and in a couple of years, I think we'll see that it was determinative in helping the governor lure new businesses into the state.

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      Sal,

      This looks like a temper tantrum by Nike, and the Governor is appeasing them. Saying "hey, wait a minute--maybe this isn't such a good idea" gives no credence whatsoever to Republican claims that Democrats don't understand or care about economic development.

      Holding a special session in order to appease one company's demand is flat out insane.

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        Fortune 500 companies do not act out of pique. Nike is asking for reasonable assurances that their tax status won't change in exchange for a commitment to a $440 million expansion that will result in 500 new jobs at Nike and thousands of new construction jobs.

        I think that the special session was a brilliant tactic. It maximizes the likelihood that the deal will get done, minimizes the risk of totally unrelated horse-trading. It also sends a clear message to other businesses that this governor is serious about business recruitment and retention and another c message to Oregonians and our legislators that the Governor is not screwing around with respect to his agenda in the regular session.

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    Nike wants certainty? Well, so do I.

    I want certainty that the Separation of Powers enshrined in both the federal Constitution and Oregon's remains in full force. This proposal will grant extraordinary new powers to this and future governors, arrogating to the Executive Branch power over taxation that has historically been a Legislative prerogative and a primary source of its countervailing power.

    I would like certainty that there will be sufficient revenue to support the essential government services that Oregonians have consistently said that they value: public education, public safety, a functioning judiciary, reliable transportation and roads, public health, social services, etc. The fact that this deal is allegedly "revenue neutral" is not even slightly comforting, since our current revenues are demonstrably insufficient. Even worse, since we cannot know what revenue is being forgone by the state, we are expected take these statements on faith. In the face of this latest example of corporate blackmail, you will forgive me, Gov. Kitzhaber, if I require more evidence that corporate citizens are paying their fair share than just your assurances.

    I would like certainty that the public policy making process is flexible enough to respond in a timely fashion to unpredictable environments. Bad enough that Kitzhaber is asking current legislators to abrogate their responsibilities, but this proposal will strip future legislators of the ability to change important features of the tax system -- perhaps for 2 generations.

    I'd like certainty about a lot of things. But I, unlike Nike, am not likely to be getting it any time soon.

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