Governor Kitzhaber: Please Veto SB 154, Criminalizes the Initiative Process

We ask Governor Kitzhaber to veto SB 154, the bill to criminalize the initiative process in Oregon.

SB 154 transforms any violation--however minor--of any election law or rule by an initiative, referendum, or recall campaign that pays circulators into the felony of false swearing under ORS 260.715(1) with penalties per violation of $125,000 and/or 5 years in prison.

Be sure to read the full story here.

Governor Kitzhaber: Veto the Pro-Nepotism Bill


by Dan Meek

That is the message of HB 2079A, which has already passed the House and the Senate on April 15. Governor Kitzhaber has 5 days to sign or veto it.

UPDATE:  Governor Kitzhaber has signed this bill, thus allowing public officials to decide to hire their own aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, half brothers, half sisters, stepchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, mother-in-law, and father-in-law, without even disclosing the relationship.

My testimony against the bill as it appeared in the House is attached.  It has only gotten worse since then.

Under ORS 244.177, a public official is currently not allowed to appoint, employ, or promote a "relative" in a paid position with a "public body that the public official servers or over which the public official exercises jurisdiction or control," unless the public official does not participate in the decision to appoint, employ, or promote his or her "relative."

Oregon's nepotism restrictions currently apply to these "relatives" of a public official, under ORS 244.175(4):

(4)    “Relative” means the spouse of the public official, any children of the public official or of the public official’s spouse, and brothers, sisters, half brothers, half sisters, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, mothers-in-law, fathers-in-law, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, stepparents, stepchildren or parents of the public official or of the public official’s spouse.

HB 2079A substantially changes the definition of "relative" applicable to the nepotism restrictions. It eliminates from that definition the public official's half brothers, half sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, stepchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, mother-in-law, and father-in-law, replacing the current definition with this:

"Relative" means:

(a)    The spouse, parent, stepparent, child, sibling, stepsibling, son-in-law or daughter-in law of the public official or candidate;

                         (b)   The parent, stepparent, child, sibling, stepsibling, son-in-law or daughter-in law of the spouse of the public official or candidate;

Some dictionaries define "sibling" as including only "a person's brother or sister," not a half brother or half sister. See Collins English Dictionary (HarperCollins 2003). The new definition covers "stepsiblings," but half-siblings and stepsiblings are not the same.

I see no reason to remove half brothers, half sisters, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, stepchildren, brothers-in-law, sisters-in-law, mothers-in-law, and fathers-in-law from the nepotism restrictions.

Governor Kitzhaber:  Please veto this bill.

Michael Munk on Nike Tax Giveaway

It is the genius of the 1%, who used to be called the “ruling class,” that its control of our politicians even when exercised brutally in the light of day can appear to Oregonians as just part of the natural order of things. Democrat Ginny Burdick of Portland and Republican Bruce Hanna quickly joined hands with the state’s major media to celebrate it with knee-jerk enthusiasm and demand that it be immediately translated into law.

Oregon Politicians on Their Knees to Nike

David Delk brings us this cogent summary of the latest example of the difference between Democrats and Republicans. As Ralph Nader says, it is "the velocities with which their knees hit the floor when corporations knock on their door."  The Oregon Center for Public Policy documented that the tax break Nike wants to be continued--on a guaranteed basis--reduces its Oregon state corporate income taxes by 95%.  Because the Oregon Constitution requires taxation to be uniform, this guaranteed tax break would have to apply to all corporations, at least to any corporation making a $150 million investment in Oregon property over the next 5 years.  Under the proposed bill, the contractually-guaranteed tax break would last from 5 to 40 years.

The Oregonian front page story on Tuesday was about the special session of the Oregon legislature called by the governor for passage of special protection of Nike from changes in the certain aspects of the Oregontax code for the next five years.  Local activist Michael Munk dubbed it the Nike Corporate Welfare Law (read his blog statement here).  The Oregonian article noted that there were critics of the move but only quoted the Oregon Center of Public Policy in a single paragraph.  So much for fair and balanced reporting. 

Oregon Center for Public Policy later issued their own response in an email titled:  A Highly Dubious Assumption in the Governors Proposed Nike Deal.  It is available on line here.   Nike appears to be afraid that because the Oregon legislature might rework some tax policy, their special tax adjustment worked out with the Oregon legislature a decade or so ago in which only the in-state sales would be used as the basis for calculating the income tax owed to the state of Oregon might be changed. They say they want "certainty."  Previously, the rate was based on value of company property in Oregon, total number of employees and total company sales around the world.  With the passage of the Single-Sales Factor, Nike and other companies doing most of their business out-of-state (Intel, Precision Castparts, Boeing, Columbia Sportwear, for instance) received a very, very, very big tax break and we were left with decreasing tax revenues to pay for teachers, senior services, parks and other state services.  Nike is part of that chorus of business that likes to remind us of the importance of having a educated population that they can hire even as they do their best to lower the taxes they pay.

And note that we don't know how much taxes Nike paid before receiving the generous tax break or how much they pay now.  All such information is private and not to be disclosed of us or legislators.

The draft legislation to be considered is available here

Please contact your state Representative and Senator and demand that they vote no on this.  And further, that they change the law to require disclosure of corporate tax reports. Find your representative and senator here.

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