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Q&A: Rundown of Ballot Initiative Attempts

Campaigners turned in petitions supporting their initiative campaigns to the Secretary of State’s office in Salem on Friday. Canvassers have been collecting signatures for about four dozen different issues for the November ballot - not all are expected to qualify.

OPB’s April Baer was in Salem Friday and joined Beth Hyams with an update on who came in under the wire.

Campaigners deliver petitions with signatures

Lucila Cejas Epple / OPB

BH: April, any surprises today?

AB: Not a lot! If you’ve ever been around State Street on deadline day, you might have seen people rolling in hand carts, or carrying in boxes and boxes of petitions, and hauling them up to the Elections Division on the 5th floor.

The Elections Office handles material brought by all kinds of campaigns, but there are a few very seasoned campaigns that have submitted signatures today.

BH: Who are we talking about?

AB: Our Oregon, which has successfully pursued a number of initiatives, has a couple proposals to repeal the Corporate “Kicker” Refunds and divert them to K-12 education. Here’s Our Oregon’s spokesman Scott Moore.

Scott Moore: “At a time when we’re suffering from overcrowded classrooms, when we’ve laid off thousands of teachers, and closed classrooms around the state, the last thing we should be doing is sending even more money to large out of state Corporations that don’t need it.”

AB: This is the same group that pulled together union support to advocate for  Measures 66 and 67 in 2010. That year, business groups opposed. This year, there’s no organized opposition at this point.

Kevin Mannix, a former lawmaker, is  the architect of many successful initiative campaigns, including some that have changed the face of criminal justice in Oregon.

This year, he’s supporting Initiative 15 - The Death Tax Phase-Out Act. It target’s Oregon’s Estate Tax.

BH: Who’s in favor of it?

AB: Kind of hard to say. We know the Political action committee for this, The Death Tax Phase Out Committee has received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Common Sense for Oregon. That’s a group Mannix has been involved in steering for some time, first as President, now as Executive Director. It’s filed as a federal advocacy group, a 501©(4), so it’s one of those corners of the political world were we can’t see who’s giving. I talked to Mannix today and he characterized Common Sense Oregon as, in his word, a flagship organization, and said it’s not funded by just one donor.

Here’s what he told me about the target for the initiative, which is inheritance taxes on large estates.

Kevin Mannix: “We’ve asked voters about this. As far as they’re concerned - ‘Who’s next?’ As long as this tax is in place, the government is free to decide to tax you on some element, maybe they want to get your family jewels, maybe they want to get your firearms.”

It also would do away with all taxes on property transfers that happen within a family.

BH: Anything else on the ballot we should know about?

AB: A group trying to ban gill-net fishing by non-tribal Oregon fishers outside designated areas along the Columbia

Also, petitions gathered for two marijuana initiatives. One is a constitutional amendment aiming to legalize marijuana use. The Secretary of State ‘s office disqualified a large number of its signatures. Even its supporters said today they don’t expect it’ll make it. The second is still in the running. Paul Stanford is Chief Petitioner for the Oregon Cannabis Tax Act

Paul Stanford: “We believe marijuana, hemp, cannabis is the oldest crop purposely cultivated by human beings. it’s also the plant that produces more food, fuel, fiber, and medicine, than any other plant on this planet.”

Stanford says the petitioners believe the limits on marijuana cultivation and use are wrong. They want voters to approve personal cultivation and use without a license.

Both groups had a lot of signatures they gathered disqualified. That spelt the end for the constitutional amendment campaign, but Stanford’s group came back with about 60,000 additional signatures after the problems were pointed out. He hopes the group still has a shot.

BH: Now it’s in the Secretary of State’s hands to check signatures?

AB: Right. Which they’ll do via statistical sampling. That will happen in 30 days.