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3 initiatives make ballot; fund raising sets records.

Byline: David Steves The Register-Guard

SALEM - Voters won't decide whether to restore term limits for legislators, but will face initiatives in November capping malpractice awards, expanding medical-marijuana policy and setting conservation rules for the Tillamook National Forest, elections officials announced Monday.

State and county elections workers completed their signature-verification work on those four of the seven initiative petitions submitted by the July 2 deadline.

The state has until the end of July to determine whether enough valid signatures were submitted for the three remaining proposed initiatives. One would impose a gay-marriage ban; another proposes to sell off SAIF, the state-owned workers compensation insurer; and the third requires the government to compensate landowners who face legal barriers to development, or to waive those restrictions.

The first round of signature-verification announcements came on the same day the campaigns for initiatives were required to disclose their campaign fund-raising and spending activities for the signature-gathering phase. Two of the measures set what appear to be records as the costliest ever to qualify for the ballot. The SAIF and the medical malpractice initiatives' dollar totals are at least records for the period dating to 1996, when the Oregon Elections Division's database first recorded such figures.

In all, this year's initiative backers spent $4.12 million for signature-gathering operations for the seven measures submitted before the July 2 deadline. That included the $1.59 million contributed by Liberty Northwest Insurance's campaign to force the sale of SAIF, and the $952,661 spent by the health care industry for caps on the amount that can be awarded to patients who win malpractice lawsuits. The previous record was set in 1998 when unions spent $633,594 to put a set of election reforms on the ballot; it was approved by voters and struck down by the courts.

Lisa Gilliam, spokeswoman for the anti-SAIF measure, defended the big-spending campaign, which included a first-ever television and radio advertising component urging voters to request and sign initiative petitions.

"It was important to us to get out early with our message," she said. "We recognize that it's going to take time and money to counter more than a decade of SAIF's propaganda, and we wanted to give ourselves a head start."

Her campaign received nearly all of the $1.59 million it raised from Liberty Northwest, a private insurer that competes with state-owned SAIF Corp. for workers compensation insurance business.

Likewise, nearly all the $4 million raised by proponents of the malpractice measure came from the medical industry, including $797,263 from the Oregon Association of Hospitals & Health Systems, and dozens of individual doctors and nurses. The Lane Individual Practice Association contributed $20,000.

Among the other five measures:

The term-limits campaign raised $373,977 and spent $353,291. Nearly all of its money came from U.S. Term Limits, based in Washington, D.C., which contributed $364,639.

The campaign for the measure that would ensure that at least half of the Tillamook State Forest be set aside from logging raised $417,501 and spent $448,454. Its biggest donor was The Wild Salmon Center in Portland, which contributed $159,973.

The campaign for a measure to allow qualifying patients to possess larger quantities of medical marijuana raised $65,673 and spent $87,355. It's biggest donor: The Foundation for Constitutional Protection, based in Austin, Texas, with $8,000.

The land use compensation measure drew $756,492 in contributions, $491,500 of which was spent on the signature-gathering campaign. Most of the money - $275,000 - came from 10 contributors who gave $10,000 or more apiece. They included ATR Services Inc. in Veneta ($25,000) and Seneca Jones Timber Co. in Eugene ($23,000).

The measure to constitutionally ban same-sex marriage was put on the ballot after a campaign that raised $232,302 and spent $208,155. The biggest donations were from the Portland-based Defense of Marriage Coalition, $29,266; and the Oregon Family Council PAC ($35,000), both of which are run by the measure's political director, Tim Nashif.

Paul Farago, a petitioner for the term-limits measure, said he is confident that the courts will force the secretary of state's elections division to place that measure on the ballot. He is part of a federal lawsuit filed by petitioners for several measures, who are contesting the methods used by the state to disqualify signatures.

"This process is fatally tainted by their verification method, and the secretary of state's misconduct," he said.

The state elections chief, John Lindback, said the measure would not have qualified even if all 5,649 disqualified signatures had been counted.

"They just didn't turn in enough signatures to give themselves a comfortable margin," he said.

MEASURE STATUS

Where the seven submitted initiatives stand in the signatures verification process, which must be finished by Aug. 1:

Term limits: Failed to qualify for the ballot

Medical marijuana: Qualified for the ballot

Cap on malpractice awards: Qualified for the ballot

Tillamook State Forest protection: Qualified for the ballot

Same-sex marriage ban: Pending signature verification

Land use compensation: Pending signature verification

SAIF Corp. sell-off: Pending signature verification
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Title Annotation:Elections
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Jul 20, 2004
Words:847
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