State News

Alert! Crossing The Line & Stacking The Deck

 <<<Representative Dennis Richardson’s Newsletter — February 27, 2014 >>>

… Editor’s Note:  As indicated in this newsletter, the House passed this bill.  However, as of Saturday, March 8th, the Oregon Legislative Information System had not been updated to reflect whether the Senate had voted it up or down,  nor were we able to find a disposition from other sources…

After eleven years as a State Legislator, I’m outraged about the flagrant abuse of power in the remaining days of my final legislative session. For the first time in Oregon history, the Democratic legislative leaders have the audacity to pass a law specifically invalidating the Voter’s Ballot Title written by the Oregon Attorney General for a Referendum from the citizens of Oregon. Essentially the House and Senate leaders seek to circumvent Oregon law on what the voters will read on the November Ballot and in the Voter’s Pamphlet.Here are the facts. In 2013 the Legislature passed Senate Bill 833. It instructed the Oregon Department of Motor Vehicles to begin issuing a Driver Card to applicants in Oregon without requiring proof of legal residency in the USA.

At that time, I wrote two newsletters on the Driver Card issue—the first gave the pros and cons of the concept.  It ended with a survey for Oregonians to give me advice on how and why I should vote on the bill.  The second, gave the results of that advice, how I voted and why I voted the way that I did.

SB 833 passed the House and Senate on nearly party-line votes and was signed into law by Governor John Kitzhaber.

Many citizens did not agree with the Legislature’s decision to grant Driver Cards to those in Oregon illegally, so they gathered more than 70,000 signatures to require a vote on this law by the people. Cynthia Kendoll wrote on Oregon.Live.com:

“Should Oregon’s constitutional system of checks and balances be compromised by its Legislature  — one of the institutions those checks and balances were designed to curb? As it stands now, the ballot title — ‘Provides Oregon resident ‘driver card’ without requiring proof of legal presence in the United States’ — tells voters exactly what the referred law would do. [St. Rep.] Vega Pederson finds this wanting. The law’s purpose is ‘that people could drive licensed and insured,’ she told The Oregonian. ‘We want to make sure the ballot title reflects that intent.’ Translation: Vega Pederson wants to change the title from what the law would do to what she hopes — and wants voters to think — it would do.”

The proposed wording in House Bill 4054 would eliminate any reference to requiring proof of citizenship and replace it with the following:

“Establishes limited purpose, duration Driver Card for individuals who prove Oregon residency, meet driving requirements.” 

Essentially, the intent of this law is to divert the voter from what the Driver Card bill really does to something that appears insignificant.

Oregon’s Constitutional referendum process provides an important method for citizens to challenge laws passed by the Legislature. When law-makers rewrite a ballot title to “spin” its wording in their favor, it distorts the measure’s purpose and attempts to manipulate the will of the voter.

In short, a referendum’s ballot title should impartially state what the law does, and the Legislature should not exercise its power to subvert the process.

In conclusion, whether you agree or disagree with the underlying Driver Card issue, HB 4054 boldly circumvents Oregon’s constitutional intent to ensure neutrality through checks and balances.  By passing this bill, the Democratic leaders have “crossed the line.” It is wrong for the legislature to “stack the deck” to manipulate the process in order to obtain its leaders’ desired results.Although HB 4054 was carefully orchestrated to pass the House, you can still stop it from becoming law.  Senate President, Peter Courtney (503-986-1600, sen.petercourtney@state.or.us), has the power to block HB 4054 in the Senate, and Governor Kitzhaber (503) 378-3111), has the power to veto the bill if it arrives on his desk.

If you would like to join me in expressing outrage on this blatant manipulation of the legislative power, click here.

Sincerely,

Dennis Richardson
State Representative

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