The Independent Party of Oregon, the state's third largest political party (with more tha 55,000 members) today rolled out an ambitious agenda for good government reforms in the 2009 legislative session.
Note on June 29, 2009: We have indicated below the ultimate outcome of each of these bills. Of the 5 priority bills, 4 were enacted. The other one was passed by the House but killed in Senate Rules Committee.
HB 2386 - ELECTRONIC VOTER REGISTRATION (enacted)
This directs Secretary of State to adopt an electronic voter registration system, which would allow qualified electors to complete their voter registration electronically.
"This idea has been adopted with great success in Washington and California. It makes it easier for younger people and folks who are overseas to register to vote in Oregon," said the party's Secretary, Sal Peralta.
HB 2414 - CROSS NOMINATIONS LISTED ON BALLOT (enacted)
This would allow candidates who are nominated by one or more political party (cross nominated) up to two party identifiers printed next to their names on the general election ballot. This bill brings Oregon law into greater agreement with Federal laws as it relates to the recognition of state party committees that seek to support federal candidates. It clarifies existing Oregon law and settles to the satisfaction of all parties concerned a legal dispute between the Secretary of State and the Independent and Working Families parties," according to Linda Williams, the party's chair.
After this bill passed the House by 53-7 on March 31, it was stuck in the Senate Rules Committee until June 23, when it was suddenly and without notice sent to the Joint Ways & Means Committee. There it was "gutted and stuffed" with entirely different content. But on June 24 the House Rules Committee amended SB 326 (see below) to insert all of HB 2414. That bill then passed the House by 42-17 and the Senate by 25-5. The Democratic Party of Oregon (DPO) urged Governor Kulongoski to veto the bill, but he signed it.
SB 326 - REPEALING DISENFRANCHISEMENT OF NONAFFILIATED VOTERS (enacted)
In 2005, the Oregon State Legislature, by wide margins of both Democrats and Republicans, enacted HB 2614, a law intended to keep independent candidates off of the Oregon ballot by disqualifying all Republicans and Democrats who vote (on anything) in the primary election from signing any petition for a candidate seeking to qualify for the general election. The bill introduced other complications into the process for qualifying any candidate for the ballot by means of collecting signatures of voters. The only two Oregonians to testify against this bill were Dan Meek and Blair Bobier (of the Pacific Green Party). HB 2614 has made it more than twice as difficult to qualify any candidate for the November ballot by means of petitioning.
Senator Rick Metsger then made repeal of HB 2614 a cornerstone of his unsuccessful 2008 run for Secretary of State. He is making good on his promise to get it repealed. The Oregon Senate on May 13 voted for SB 326 by 27-0. The House Rules Committee on June 14 inserted the provisions of HB 2414 (see above), and the combined bill then passed the House 42-17 and the Senate 25-5. The Democratic Party of Oregon (DPO) urged Governor Kulongoski to veto the bill, but he signed it.
HB 2500 - BUDGET DISCLOSURE (enacted)
This directs the DAS to create and maintain a web site listing revenue and expenditures of state agencies and requires the agencies to prepare a monthly report on government spending.
"This bill brings much-needed transparency to the budget process. We believe that it will help to increase citizen involvement and oversight of a budget that has grown significantly over the past few decades," said Peralta.
HB 2588 - NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE (passed by House; killed in Senate Rules Committee)
This enacts the Interstate Compact for Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, embodied in HB 2588, has already been adopted in Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, and New Jersey. It creates an agreement among states that guarantees the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide. The bill would only take effect only after it is enacted by states that collectively exercise a majority of the electoral votes (270 or more).
A survey of 800 Oregon voters conducted by Public Policy Polling on December 16-17, 2008, found 76% overall support for a national popular vote for President. Support was 82% among Democrats, 70% among Republicans, and 72% among others.
"The Independent Party of Oregon supports HB 2588, which would make Presidential elections more meaningful in Oregon and other states not typically labeled `battleground’ areas. For the past decade and more, Presidential campaigns have focused heavily on just a few states (Florida, states in the upper Midwest, and just lately some Rocky Mountains states), where the major party candidates run close races. The candidates have all but completely ignored Pacific Coast, New England, Mid-Atlantic, Southern (except Florida) and Great Plains states," said Dan Meek, a member of the Independent Party State Council.
The Independent Party of Oregon grew faster than the Oregon Republican Party in 2008, adding 30,000 members compared to 10,000 for the GOP.
85% of Independent Party members voted in 2008, the highest rate of any minor political party, and 10% higher than the turnout among non-affiliated voters.
Four out of five candidates who were cross-nominated by the Independent Party won their races in 2008.