Stop the Hypocrisy

The proponents of Measure 79 are plagued with hypocrisy. Take the Portland City Club: In 1996, it formed a committee to study Oregon's initiative and referendum process. This led to the adoption of a report proposing five changes to Oregon's Constitution, each one directed at making it more difficult to amend the Constitution by initiative. The report concluded that increasing the number of signatures to stop initiatives "would simply increase the power and advantage of individuals or interests with money compared with individuals or interests with less or no resources.

Recently the City Club endorsed 79, which ironically proposes to do the very thing their report rejected, i.e., increase by 50 percent the number of signatures required to put a constitutional initiative on the ballot. They did so while complaining that the Legislature had failed to refer their five proposed changes to a public vote, and that "there is no possibility in the foreseeable future of adoption of those original amendments either by referendum or by initiative." Does this sound familiar? The City Club, like the rest of us, gets ignored by the Legislature. They respond by refusing to use the initiative process while complaining about how "easy" it is to amend the Constitution under present signature requirements. Then they top this off by endorsing 79 which concentrates - you guessed it - more power in the Legislature.

Lobbyists also happen to prefer power concentrated in the Legislature. Consider Mark Nelson, the campaign treasurer of 79's "Some Things Don't Belong in the Constitution Committee." This committee paid for the voter pamphlet statements of Phil Keisling and the League of Women Voters President, Paula Krane. This same Mark Nelson, according to a March 12th Oregonian article, is a powerful lobbyist representing such corporate interests as tobacco, alcohol, big timber and gambling. He certainly knows which side his bread is buttered on and, ironically, so does the Legislature!

During the last legislative session, while Legislators were busy creating 79, they were also forcing ratepayers to pay $304 million in profit to PGE/Enron for the abandoned Trojan Nuclear Plant. The Legislature overturned a 1978 statutory initiative which prohibited utilities from charging for power plants not being used. Did the Legislature ask if you wanted to keep paying for Trojan? No! Did they ask if you wanted to change your law? No! Now, the Legislature is bringing you Measure 79 because they want you to use the statutory initiative process. According to Ralph Nader, "With the threat of constitutional amendments diminished, the legislature would feel more free to amend or overrule statutory initiatives that had been passed by vote of the people."

Raising signature requirements simply turns the initiative process over to vested interests. It won't stop Bill Sizemore, but it will mean more paid petitioners on the streets, which may be exactly what the Legislature wants. They know the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that paid petitioning cannot be banned. So by raising signature requirements and increasing the use of paid petitioners, they hope to turn the public against having the initiative process at all. Voting No on 79 not only protects the initiative process but it stops this hypocrisy!

Lloyd Marbet is chair of the Coalition for Initiative Rights and is candidate for Secretary of State on the Pacific Green Party ticket.