Using Ballot Initiatives in Oregon
A guest columnist on BlueOregon raised the issue of democrats using ballot initiatives more in Oregon, a mechanism I also think we could use more, though I've written only a little on (see Prioritize and Strategize). My full comments can be found with his article. Here are some excerpts:
Democrats have failed to look at strategically at the initiative process. That's water under the bridge, now we need to get to work on it.
I see using the initiative process as having a couple of motivators:
- some new idea you want to take the lead on
- heading the other side off at the pass
- solving outstanding problems before they become touchstones for the other side to “oversolve” the problem
- breaking through a political logjam in legislature/governor
And my proposals (lightly edited):
Depoliticize redistricting: Only redistrict after 10-year census to avoid picking political opportunism; have a non-partisan group do the redistricting, say by retired judges. [there are probably a whole raft of other “clean election” things things to improve in Oregon before we become the next Florida/Ohio.]
Fix the $80,000 farm income rule (to take some of the teeth out of Measure 37).
Definition of science and requirement to teach evolution in schools. We know this has happened elsewhere, so let's not assume it can't happen here! Let's get there first. “Basic mainstream science education/instruction for all”
At some time, they will be trying to dumb-down the definition of science and try to make “Creationism” or “Intelligent Design” required on the school ciriculum and subvert real science and evolution -- whether at the legislative, initiative or school board level. We should head them off by developing an appropriate definition of science and the requirement to teach science, including evolution. [For an update on quickly strengthening “Intelligent Design” movement to corrupt school science teaching, see The New Monkey Trial.]
Set school funding at 3.75% of Oregon GDP.
The problem isn't the source, which everyone focuses on, it is the amount. “State-izing” school funding means the legislature allocates the $ but doesn't have responsibility in the running of the schools. The legislature often hasn't figured out how much to allocate until after the school year is in session, throwing things in chaos for parents, testing, kids and contracts the local schools have already entered into, teachers, etc.
Polling shows Oregonians want a top school system in America (80% say “be among the best” or “be the very best”). But agree that we don't have it (24% think their local schools are very good). Most think their kids school is pretty good, but the others aren't (24% that their local schools are very good, but only 9% that Oregon's schools as a whole are very good). see Chalkboard Project poll graphs and charts.
Worldwide studies have ranked spending and achievement by country and by US State. Set school funding at 3.75% of Oregon GDP (we can argue over the exact number prior to finalizing the initiative (sorry i don't have a reference for this at hand)), which has been shown worldwide to be adequate to produce an good, competitive school system (maybe add 0.25% since we want to be among the top rank, not just above average).
If the legislature fails to provide adequate funding, then an automatic surtax is applied to income or property tax. (I know this a bit more complicated than this to avoid pathological cases like the legislature “unfunding” schools to avoid explicitly raising taxes elsewhere and then being “forced by the constitution” to raise taxes for schools, but there's some provision needed here to guarantee the funding is there.)
Make the 3.75% based on a two- or three-year trailing average of GDP. This is because the amount shouldn't go up and down wildly based on economic conditions independent of the number of students -- their educational needs are the same. Also because that makes it predictiable for all involved. Set the date of when that # is determined such that we have the GDP for the previous year and are far enough in advance of the next school year for budgeting.
- Equity in contraceptive insurance (Stacy Dycus)
- Tort reform (the right way)
- Open elections (Phil Keisling)
- No school vouchers -- public funds dispersed thru state can only be used in public institutions
- Civil Unions