Thursday, July 06, 2006

Villainy wears many masks, none of which so dangerous as virtue...

I've become hugely disenchanted with the petition process in Oregon over recent years. While I respect the democratic principle that the voters can have a direct say in the government I feel it's simply too easy to get an initiative on the ballot, particularly one would amend the Oregon state constitution. Add to that the tendency of conservatives to use fringe initiatives to get out their base in the general election and it's pretty clear initiative petioning is not working as intended.

Unfortunately the initiative process remains popular even if the bloom has fallen of the rose in recent years and state lawmakers from both parties have been loathe to toy with it.

Which leaves progressives to take a "if you can't beat 'em, join 'em" approach to initiatives. And join them they have. Their are many progressive proposals aiming for the ballot this year including changes to the tax system and, my personal favorite, a proposal to allow the state to legally negotiate drug prices with big pharma- something specifically left out of the Republican's Medicare legislation recently enacted.

For weeks now I've been walking by a variety of people in downtown holding big, pre-printed yellow signs displaying a pair of glasses and reading "Read Before You Sign." While I applaud the sentiment there was something about the canned appearance of the sign that didn't sit right with me. After a little research it turns out I was right.

Petition wars continue
Just two weeks to go until the July 7 deadline for turning in petition signatures, and things are getting hot out there.

A business-backed group says it is launching a campaign to encourage voters to be wary of signing initiatives. They hired temp workers to cruise big signature gathering spots in Portland Friday carrying signs that said, "Read before you sign."

J.L. Wilson, a lobbyist for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the effort will also include radio ads and cost up to $100,000. Several business groups are kicking in money for the effort, he said. Wilson said they're not targeting any particular petitions. But the business community has spent millions of dollars in past years fighting a wide variety of initiatives, and they would undoubtedly like to head some off at the pass.

If big business has real concerns about the initiative process it would be really nice if they would put just some of the money they're dumping into stopping truly popular inititiatives from making the ballot into reforming the inititiative system itself. With their resources they could attack the problem at it's origin rather than nibble around the edges.

Unless the edges were all they really cared about in the first place. But how cynical is it to assume that?

Not cynical at all. Just common sense.

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