By Keith Mansur, OCC
A prospective petition was filed for an Oregon initiative that would force the legislature to seek voter approval when they make changes to a voter-enacted statutory initiative, such as Measure 91. After filing it in late October, the petitioners are ready to submit their initial 1000 sponsorship signatures in February.
Once these signatures are submitted, the Elections Division forwards the text of the prospective petition to the Oregon Attorney General and, after the title process is complete, the gathering of the nearly 120,000 valid signatures begins.
“Throughout history whenever the Legislature made changes to an initiative law approved by voters, they sent the changes back for a approving majority vote,” explained Mark Miller, one of two Chief Petitioners for Restore The Initiative. “Over the last two years, and for the first time in history, the Oregon Legislature and Governor have repealed initiative laws that voters approved, and declared an emergency so the voters could not have a referendum on the changes.”
“Our constitutional amendment requires if the legislature makes changes to an initiative law, an election must be held for voters to approve or disapprove the change,” Miller explained.
It appears what Miller is saying is true. The Oregon Legislature and Governor have defied more than 100 years of legislative tradition by making wholesale changes to Measure 91, a voter-enacted initiative. Miller and the other Chief Petitioner, Larry Becker, believe it has created a constitutional crisis and can render our vote on initiatives meaningless.
“All the legislature has to do is repeal any initiative the voters approved, and declare an emergency, and that prevents an election (referendum) on those changes,” explained Miller.
To place a constitutional amendment on the ballot, more signatures must be gathered, making the task more difficult. Instead of the usual 88,000 signatures required for a statutory change, a constitutional amendment needs 117,578 signatures; but it can’t be messed with or derailed by the legislature, as was done with Measure 91.
“A constitutional amendment is required because an initiative law to stop the legislature from changing voter passed laws can be repealed by the legislature and have an emergency declared on it as well,” explained Miller. “The way to restore the constitutional balance intended by the initiative process is to pass our amendment.”
They are confident they will raise enough signatures. With a July 8 deadline for signature submissions, they have five months left to gather the number needed.
“We have encountered widespread support,” Miller explained. “A number of organizations on both sides of political spectrum are rallying to this to ensure that citizens can hold government accountable.”
Signature-gathering has been somewhat streamlined this year. Now voters can download an “e-petition” form and then mail it to the Chief Petitioner directly. Though not as easy as just “clicking,” it does add a new dimension to signature-gathering.
“There is a new means of collecting petition signatures with forms that voters can download,” Miller explained. “After signing and filling them out, they are mailed to an address provided by the initiative, where the Chief Petitioners take them to the Secretary of State.”
Until the Oregon Attorney General signs off on the ballot title and wording, Restore The Initiative is limited to “authorized agents” collecting signatures. So far there are currently about 15 of these agents, and the campaign can use more! If you are interested in volunteering, or want more information on their initiative or its current wording, visit >> http://www.RestoreTheInitiative.org.
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