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demonstrated that changes in some particulars are necessary. These I shall refer to later.

While the powers reserved under the initiative and referendum have a restraining influence on the legislators and operate as a check on vicious, extravagant and special legislation, there is also

a tendency to cause the legislator to feel less Criticisms of

personal responsibility and to leave to the peoInitiative

ple matters which he should act on. It also provides what seems to some too easy and expeditious a method of submitting amendments to the constitution. Indeed, some claim that substantially we have no constitution left in the sense it is generally understood.

Formerly it required not only a majority of those voting at an election, but a proposed amendment was required to be agreed to by a majority of all the members elected to each house in two successive legislative assemblies, before submission to the people. Now an amendment may be proposed directly by the people and a majority of those voting on it at any general election is sufficient to carry the proposition. The initiative petition for the submission of an amendment must be filed with the secretary of state not less than four months before the election at which it is to be voted upon, and must be submitted at a regular general election unless otherwise ordered by the legislative assembly. This direct method of amending the constitution unquestionably imposes very grave responsibilities upon the electors.

When originally adopted it was generally thought that only measures of great importance and of limited number would be submitted under the initiative. In practice it has been found that such is not the case, although this statement is subject to some qualifications. Not unnaturally when it was first adopted quite a number of laws were proposed and nearly all carried, the enactment of which had been demanded over and over again by the people only to be defeated by the legislature. In other words, it was but the inevitable result of the people having the power to carry out their will which had been hitherto thwarted by the failure of the legislators to act at all, or if they did act, to act adversely. It is also claimed that laws submitted under the initiative may be, and are sometimes, prepared from a biased or partisan standpoint, and thus are liable to be unfair, ill-considered, or poorly prepared, and, not being susceptible of amendment, must be adopted or rejected as presented. There is truth in this criticism. At the same time there is considerable expense attached to submitting a law, and the people, if they understand it, will not support an unfair or one-sided measure. The chief difficulty in this respect, however, is in getting the facts before the public so that they understand them. A popular demand crystalized into the form of a law headed by a "catchy" title is too apt to receive favorable consideration, the details and imperfections being overlooked in the desire to obtain the ultimate purpose.

Another objection is, that it takes too much of the time of the people in studying proposed legislation. On the other hand, it might be urged that to compel people generally to study and understand the conditions under which they are living could scarcely be called an objection.

However, even if not necessary, it has been found advisable for organizations to issue statements to voters covering the questions to be submitted. They generally consist of a short statement of the measure with the number on the ballot and the recommendations of the organization on the particular question. The Taxpayers League of this city has been specially active in this work, but it can be readily understood that the printing and circulating of these statements and reports costs considerable money, and with elections every year, one the city, the other the state and county, it keeps those interested pretty busy.

I think the foregoing are the chief objections to the initiative, except such as are urged by those who are opposed to it on principle, or the conservatives who view with alarm changes in any direction, or those who wish to limit rather than enlarge either the powers or the responsibilities of the people as a whole. On the other hand, the initiative places in the hands of the people the power to inaugurate such reforms, changes of policy or enact such laws as they may desire, or believe to be to their best interests. A number of changes have been suggested, amongst them being the following:

1. To provide that a larger number of petitioners should be

required to have a measure submitted than is now provided by

law. Eight per cent. of the legal voters are now Changes

required to propose any measure by petition. Suggested

2. To have initiative measures first submitted to the legislature with the right to pass upon them or to amend them, and if amended to submit the alternative proposition to the people. Such an amendment has been prepared by friends of the initiative and is now under public consideration.

3. Limiting the number of constitutional amendments or laws that may be submitted to vote at any one election.

4. Limitation of subject matter to a single proposition in concrete form.

5. It has also been suggested that the initiative be confined to bills that have been introduced and failed to pass in the legislature and those that have been vetoed by the governor.

Except number 2, so far as I am aware, none of the other suggested amendments has been reduced to writing or prepared for public discussion.

The referendum is felt to be of great value in operating as preventive of special, extravagant or otherwise obnoxious legis

lation. This power operates as a strong deterReferendum

rent against extravagant legislation or that favorable to special interests. The indiscriminate granting of franchises, the bartering away of public rights and the granting of special privileges of all kinds which have been so prolific of corruption in the past, would not have been indulged in to the extent they have, had the people always reserved this power.

There is but little criticism of the referendum. About the only change suggested is to provide for a larger number of petitioners.

It could hardly be said that the people have not voted intelligently upon measures that have been submitted for their con

sideration. Moreover, nearly all the laws passed Type of Meas

by the people, though possibly differing in lanures Submitted

guage or construction, have been rejected by the legislature. The following list is illustrative of measures submitted and votes cast thereon:

NO. 46,971 45,144 44,525


YES. Equal suffrage

36,928 To amend local option law

35,397 To purchase a private toll road.

31,525 For initiative and referendum on local, special and municipal laws

47,778 Prohibiting free passes, (no enacting clause).

57,281 Requiring sleeping car, refrigerator car, and oil co's. to pay annual license upon gross earnings....

69,635 Requiring express, telegraph and telephone co's. to pay annual license upon gross earnings....


16,735 16,779



It will be noted that the act prohibiting free passes had no enacting clause and in consequence failed to become a law.

The act to regulate transportation and commerce, etc., was passed at the legislative session of 1907. Certain provisions of this act, in effect, prohibited the giving of free transportation.

Notwithstanding the vote of the people but recently cast upon the question, the legislature at the same session passed an act requiring the railroads to grant free transportatoin to state and county officials as a consideration precedent to acquiring land for corporate purposes by the exercise of eminent domain. A referendum was called upon this act, and at the election of 1908 the law was defeated by a vote of 59,406 to 28,856. This exemplifies the use to which the referendum may be put and is an excellent illustration why it is extremely unlikely that it will be repealed.

A referendum was also called on an appropriation made for the State University. The appropriation was sustained by a vote of 44,115 to 40,535. This referendum is occasionally referred to as an illustration of its dangers. Personally, I do not view it in that way, as I think the discussion that followed, and the better understanding the people in the end had of the subject, did good rather than harm.

I might add that the large negative vote does not really represent the feelings of our people toward the State University. A number of local conditions and issues swelled this vote, and I think I am safe in saying the people of the state generally take a justifiable pride in this institution, which, I am glad to say, is growing in strength and influence all the time.

Among the measures submitted in 1908, and defeated, were the following;


Increasing the compensation of members of the legislature to $400.00 for a regular session, and $10.00 per day for each extra session, instead of $3.00 per day and mileage.

An amendment increasing the number of judges of the Supreme Court and changing the jurisdiction of certain other courts.

An act appropriating $25,000.00 annually for four years for purchasing grounds and building armories for the use of the Oregon National Guard.

Equal suffrage amendment.

Giving cities and towns within their corporate limits additional and exclusive power to license and control or prohibit theatres, race tracks, and the sale of liquors, etc. This proposal was considered to be something in the nature of a trick to avoid the effect of the local option law, and received 39,442 affirmative votes and 52,346 negative votes.

The single tax amendment was defeated by a vote of 60,871 to 32,066.

The following carried:

Permitting the location of state institutions elsewhere than at the seat of government by act of legislature and vote of the people.

Changing the time of holding the regular general biennial election from the first Monday in June to the Tuesday after the first Monday in November.

Two laws prohibiting fishing for salmon, etc., were both passed; one was known as the "Up River Bill," the other as the

“Down River Bill.” The effect of the passage Amendments

of both laws was to prohibit the taking of salmon Carried

at all, although such was not the intention of the proposers. Each only wanted to restrain its rival. While on its face it would indicate that the vote cast is evidence of the confusion that may result from the use of the initiative, yet, if the subject was understood as we understand it here, the result is not surprising. Moreover it is not uncommon to find contradictory laws as well as acts having irreconcilable provisions passed by the legislature.

In the Report of the Oregon Conservation Commission of 1908, the Committee who prepared the paper on the salmon industry in connection with this vote said:

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