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Bob Barton Speaks Out for Initiative System Reform

OBA Launches Oregon Initiative Reform Coalition

Facing another round of ill conceived ballot measures, OBA business leaders decided enough was enough.  Armed with the recent City Club of Portland report, Making the Initiative Work for Oregon, OBA has organized a coalition of business and labor leaders, state legislators and the Governor’s office in designing a package of statutory and constitutional changes to reform the initiative system.

“Our committee believes that good government practices are the foundation for good public policy.  We are concerned that currently the initiative process is flawed, is less effective as a method for producing good policy and as a result, is less capable of promoting good government,” said Bob Barton, Cosgrave Vergeer Kester LLP, Chair of the OBA Good Government Committee .  “We welcome the chance to work with City Club of Portland and the legislature to improve the initiative process so it again works as well as was originally intended.”

The coalition includes a broad range of stakeholders including unions, business groups and the League of Women Voters of Oregon.  Senator Frank Morse, R-Albany and Representative Larry Galizio, D-Tigard are the legislative leaders of this bi-partisan effort.  Both legislators acknowledge the financial uncertainty caused by the unfunded mandates that result from many initiatives.  According to Morse, 50% of the state’s discretionary spending is directed by initiatives.  Chip Terhune, Chief of Staff to Governor Kulongoski, gave the coalition effort thumbs up.  “The Governor has come to view initiative reform as a critical step to fiscal reform,” said Terhune.

According to the City Club report, “Oregon’s initiative system, as it currently operates, is on balance a negative for the state.”  The coalition recognizes that it is important for Oregonians to have a solid initiative system to act on issues important to them when the Legislature is unable or unwilling to act.  The current system is not solid, hurts our bond rating and is in need of reform.