By Ben Jacklet
The house rules committee will hold a hearing next Monday on two bills that seek to improve Oregon's initiative process and provide more transparency to political contributions.
House Bill 2258 would amend several aspects of one of the nation's most active initiative processes. The bill would grant more power to the Secretary of State's Elections Division to investigate wrongdoing and scams by setting up a toll-free hotline, requiring detailed payroll information about petitioners, and stepping up enforcement of fraud and forgery.
The second bill, HB 2259, would tighten campaign finance reporting by requiring that all contributions of over $5,000 made in the last 42 days of a campaign must be reported to the state within 48 hours. Meanwhile, the deadline for reporting smaller contributions made during the home stretch of a campaign would extend from seven to 14 days.
Secretary of State Kate Brown, who supports both reform measures, said in a statement released this morning that keeping closer tabs on larger contributions would enable the state to focus on "alligators rather than mosquitoes."
Oregon was the second state to adopt a system of initiative and referendum, in 1902. Initiatives that would amend the state constitution must receive signatures from eight percent of voters to make the ballot. Initiatives that would make statutory changes require six percent. Referendum petitions, which seek to overrule bills passed in the Legislature, must receive four percent.
Some of the state's most significant and controversial policies became law through the iniative and referendum process.
Ben Jacklet is managing editor of Oregon Business.