By Jeb Bladine • President / Publisher • 

Jeb Bladine: Sneaky try to slow tax bill referendum

Oregonians revere — and will defend — their rights to access an initiative and referendum process that dates back to 1902. Consider these excerpts from 200-plus submissions of testimony on — hopefully, ill-fated — Senate Bill 761:

Whatchamacolumn

Jeb Bladine is president and publisher of the News-Register.

> See his column

“(It) is a dirty rotten attempt to limit citizens’ right to involvement in government,” wrote Carole Leofsky of Oakland. “This smells of voter suppression, and the promoters of this bill should be in jail.”

From Bill McKee of Milwaukie: “(It’s) not just absurd, it’s a clear attempt to silence citizen opposition to legislative efforts to impose undesirable and outrageous laws.”

An even broader view came from Keith and Tami LaHaie of Central Point: “The legislative tactics being used during this session (misuse of the emergency clause, attempts at voter suppression) are very offensive, and some could consider them dictatorial.”

Sophia Mekkers from Newberg captured the core of the issue: “This change comes immediately after people began organizing a petition drive to repeal the $2 billion tax. The speedy rush to pass SB 761-3 is designed to block voters from democracy and voicing their opinion using the people’s petition process.”

Obviously, passions run high on this proposal. In fairness, SB761 would not prevent a citizen referendum on the Democratic Party’s tax bill. It was written to prohibit people from copying and distributing the state’s digital template for single-signature submissions on proposed ballot measures.

It appears the only identified proponent is the ACLU, which claims SB 761 would prevent use of e-sheets “in a manner that is inconsistent with the laws … in place to ensure the integrity of the petition circulation and signature gathering system.”

However, legislative backers of SB 761 launched a devious two-pronged strategy, opening with an absurd provision: Any violation of the no-distribution rule in a ballot measure campaign triggers a ban on all e-sheets for that ballot proposal. You could call that the “land mine” approach to legislation.

Next, in a transparent ruse, they proposed amending SB 761 to simply ban all single-signature e-sheets for four years. That level of palpable deceit is a textbook example of the proverbial saying, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Paul Ramirez, identifying himself simply as Oregon Citizen, testified: “We don’t elect you to concentrate and centralize your power to act against our interests! How dare someone even submit such a bill. It’s an absolute outrage! An egregious act of anti-American insolence!”

So, yes, there’s proof: Oregonians are protective of their ballot measure rights.

Jeb Bladine can be reached at jbladine@newsregister.com or 503-687-1223.

Comments

@@pager@@