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Newspaper Article

    New law cuts off 14 citizen initiatives

    BY Edward Walsh
    02/01/2008

    The sponsors of 14 citizen initiatives have been ordered to stop gathering signatures to qualify for the November ballot until they comply with a new state record-keeping law.

    Five of the 14 initiatives are sponsored by veteran conservative activist Bill Sizemore. He has until Feb. 11 to submit records on a sixth initiative or stop gathering signatures for it, too.

    Sizemore said he will file a lawsuit early next week challenging the constitutionality of the new law, which was enacted by the Legislature last year and went into effect July 31.

    Sizemore lashed out at Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, who oversees the state Elections Division.

    "The secretary of state's position illustrates just how unbelievably arrogant he and his office are," Sizemore said. "It's clearly unconstitutional, and they probably know it. Bill Bradbury works for the public employees' unions. They want all my initiatives shut down, and that's all they are doing."

    The Legislature passed the law to tighten enforcement of Measure 26, the 2002 ballot measure that banned payment of signature gatherers based on the number of signatures they obtain.

    Under the law, six months after an initiative is certified for signature gathering, the sponsor is told to submit payroll and other records to the Elections Division, the Attorney General's office or the Bureau of Labor and Industries. The sponsor then has 10 days to comply or stop gathering signatures.

    The 14 initiatives stopped by elections officials include seven whose sponsors had already submitted signatures for verification. None of those has been certified for the Nov. 4 ballot. They include the five sponsored by Sizemore and two sponsored by Russ Walker, vice chairman of the Oregon Republican Party and state director of FreedomWorks, a conservative organization based in Washington, D.C.

    Signature gathering has not been halted for two anti-crime initiatives sponsored by Kevin Mannix, a former lawmaker and GOP gubernatorial candidate. Mannix submitted signatures for those initiatives last August, saying all of the signatures were gathered before July 31, when the new law went into effect.

    The Elections Division has not verified the signatures to qualify the Mannix initiatives for the November ballot.

    Sizemore, whose longtime causes include lower taxes, weaker public employee unions and more stringent rules for public school teachers, complained Thursday that the Elections Division is demanding that he match employees' signature sheets with their payroll records. He said that was impossible because he did not pay by the signature.

    But John Lindback, director of the Elections Division, said matching the records so that they can be compared is the only way his office can monitor compliance with Measure 26.

    by Edward Walsh on 2/1/08.