More About Citizens' Initiative Review

Capitol Currents:

Here are a few tidbits that I couldn't fit into the on-air version of my story on the Citizens' Initiative Review:

Organizers from Healthy Democracy Oregon (HDO) say they sent out invitations to 10,000 randomly-selected registered voters in an effort to round-up a wide cross-section of people to populate the two panels. (This week's panel is reviewing Measure 73, and next week's panel is reviewing Measure 74.) Of that initial group, roughly 350 people responded. HDO says it screened that group for a variety of demographics, including age, ethnicity, gender, educational attainment, party affiliation and to make sure they had people representing different parts of the state. In the end, they got two panels of 24 people each, plus a few alternates.

Lawmakers approved the bill in 2009 that authorizes what is essentially a pilot project. There is no cost to the state, other than the incremental cost of dedicating space in the Voters' Pamphlet to the statement(s) produced by each review panel. The funding for the current pair of panels comes from a variety of foundations and private donors, according to HDO's Tyrone Reitman. He says each week-long session costs roughly $125,000, which includes a $150/day stipend for participants plus meals and lodging, as well as the cost of renting meeting space at the Salem Conference Center.

Without additional legislation, this will be a one-off experiment. Reitman says the goal is to convince the 2011 legislature that this year's Citizens' Initiative Reviews were successful. And he says ultimately, the idea is that the state would pay for these panels, which would convene for every measure that makes the ballot. But Reitman says he realizes that such an expenditure is unlikely in the current fiscal environment, so perhaps a continuation of the privately-funded method is more realistic. Of course, there's nothing to prevent HDO from continuing the Citizens' Initiative Review process without legislative approval. But they would not be granted a prominent, dedicated slot in the Voters' Pamphlet. HDO would have to purchase space under the guise of being "For" or "Against" a ballot measure, which, I gather, would be somewhat antithetical to their mission.

While I compared the process in my on-air story to a jury trial, there are a few key differences. First, unlike the jury-selection process, no one who was randomly selected to receive an invitation was compelled by law to respond. Second, while panelists can request testimony from experts, they do not have subpoena power. However, Reitman tells me that HDO has identified "likely" witnesses who have been put on notice that their presence may be requested. He says in most cases, the potential witnesses have agreed to be available. And of course, another huge difference is that at $150/day, the stipend is far greater than jury duty pay. The level of pay was determined based on an average of Oregon salaries. The idea was to remove as many barriers to participation as possible.<div class="blogger-post-footer"><img width="1" height="1" src="" alt=""/></div>

Read the full article here. Discuss below.

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