In 2020, Oregon voters will decide whether the state needs campaign finance reform.
That’s because one of about 100 last-minute bills rushed through the Senate last weekend, after the Republican walkout ended, was Senate Joint Resolution 18. SJR 18 is a referral to voters asking whether they want a state constitutional amendment that allows legislators to set limits on campaign donations.
SJR 18 won broad bipartisan support in the legislature, including “yes” votes from Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, and Rep. Gary Leif, R-Roseburg.
Patrick Starnes, former independent gubernatorial candidate, made campaign finance reform a key issue in his campaign and continued to push for it even after dropping out of the race.
Starnes lauded the legislature’s decision.
“We’re pretty excited about the victory in the 25th hour after eight months of working on this,” he said Tuesday.
However, Starnes said the battle isn’t over. Oregonians can expect the same big-money interests that pour cash into campaign coffers to blitz the state with ads opposing the ballot measure, he said.
The impact of dark money on future elections may be slightly lessened by two other bills that passed the legislature last weekend. One requires that political ads include a tagline listing top donors. The other requires organizations donating significant funding to campaigns list their own top donors.
Starnes said his goal is to ensure that either the money’s taken out of elections, or at the very least, the source of the money is exposed.
“That’s what we want is a people-powered election, rather than a corporate or special interest election,” he said.
Starnes said campaign donors influence decisions legislators make. He cited oil company money fueling the walkout against climate reform, real estate developers influencing housing legislation, and tobacco and pharmaceutical company dollars influencing health care bills.
Large donors are more powerful in some districts than others, Starnes said. Legislators who need less money for their campaigns, such as those in heavily red or blue districts that match their party affiliation, are less susceptible to influence, he said.
The Oregonian/OregonLive recently reported on their analysis of state campaign contribution data. In their listing of the percentage of corporate contributions to overall campaign cash each legislator received, Leif and Heard fell in about the middle of the pack, each with about 50 percent of their funding coming from corporations. Heard balanced that with one of the largest percentages of funding from individual voters, coming in seventh place.
Both have pretty small campaign coffers compared to the war chests of some of their fellow legislators. In 2018, for example, Oregon Secretary of State records show Heard collected about $88,000 in total campaign donations from all sources and Leif $56,000. By comparison, Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney collected $424,000 in 2018; House Republican Leader Mike McLane collected $565,000; and Democratic Rep. Caddy McKeown, covering a purple district including Coos County, collected $981,000.
Heard said Tuesday that both large corporate interests and big labor play a detrimental role in politics when their contributions are uncapped. That winds up affecting the middle class and freedoms and rights affecting all Oregonians, he said.
He said he voted for SJR 18 because he thinks the people should choose whether to set limits on those contributions.
“I want the people to be able to make those decisions. The politicians are not very good at regulating themselves when it comes to this kind of stuff,” he said.
Scottish rock-fusion band, Skerryvore, brought its eclectic energy to the third Music on the Half Shell performance of the season Tuesday evening.
The eight-man group used its wide array of instruments — including bagpipes, fiddle, flute and guitar — and audience participation in their performance. From the very first number, the band wasted no time asking the audience to clap, wave their arms or dance with each song.
Kilt-wearing Martin Gillespie, member of the band, said the band’s music has roots in Scottish traditional music, and features a fusion of different music styles including rock and folk.
“It’s very very loud,” Gillespie said before the concert. “We like it to be a kind of party kind of thing. We want everyone to just get involved and get on board right from the start.”
Delaware-native Amber Treon, who is spending her summer in Roseburg with her daughter, said she liked that the band had a wide array of instruments.
“They have a lot of energy,” Treon said. “I’m going to actually go research them when I get home. I’ll probably buy their music.”
Lead vocalist Alec Dalglish said Skerryvore’s music is very lively and engaging.
“We encourage people to get involved and dance,” Dalglish said.
Jack and Mary Jo Lincke moved to Roseburg from Sisters seven months ago and said Skerryvore reminds them of some of the music they heard at the Sisters Folk Festival.
“It’s just contemporary and folk, and it’s got a lot of spirit – and I love their accents,” Mary Jo said. “I would say it’s a cultural experience.”
Event coordinator Clint Newell said Skerryvore has been on his radar for awhile and he was excited to book them for this season.
“It’s obviously Celtic, but they put a cool edge on it,” Newell said. “They rock it out, and you don’t hear that out of a lot of bands from that region. I really like the unique flavor that they put out.”
Next week, Music on the Half Shell will welcome the John Jorgenson Quintet, a string-driven “gypsy jazz” band, at 7 p.m.
Keith Ericson, 49, was struck and killed by an Oregon Department of Transportation mower on Tuesday morning.
Police said his last known addresses were in Rapid City, South Dakota and Santa Monica, California.
An ODOT employee, mowing on the shoulder of Highway 42 near milepost 59, hit the man, who is believed to have been sleeping in the grass.
Oregon State Police responded to the scene, between Tenmile and Camas Valley, at approximately 9:15 a.m.
ODOT called for Emergency Medical Services and attempted first aid, but the man died on the scene.
Oregon State Police was assisted by the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, Tenmile Fire Department and Douglas County Fire District 2.
The Winston City Council directed city staff Monday to determine the process and cost of letting voters decide whether to lift local restrictions on marijuana shops.
The city’s buffer zone laws for marijuana shops are more stringent than the state’s. Two weeks ago, the City Council held workshop to field input from the public on whether the city should lift local restrictions, which have prevented marijuana shops from opening. About 10 people provided comments for and against lifting the restrictions.
City officials say allowing marijuana shops to open might create new tax revenue sources as the city struggles to fund new projects. In April, the City Council approved a $3 per month public safety fee to fund replacing police vehicles.
While the City Council discussed voting to remove the restrictions outright, City Manager Mark Bauer said in an interview that councilors didn’t feel like they had enough information about public opinion.
“I don’t think they got a clear-cut vision of the community from the workshop with as few people we had there,” Bauer said.
Marijuana shops must be in a commercial zone and at least 1,000 feet away from schools, day cares and other dispensaries, according to Oregon law. Winston requires them to be 500 feet from churches and 200 feet from residential and parks/public reserve zoned property.
To have a measure lifting local restrictions on the Nov. 5 ballot, the city would have to publish notice of the ballot title and draft text by Aug. 17 and file the final measure with the county elections official by Sept. 5, according to the Oregon Elections Division. Bauer said will determine the cost of putting the measure on the ballot by the end of the week.
Mayor Dick Hayes said in an interview he doesn’t know how residents would vote, but he thinks public opinion has gotten more positive of marijuana shops since they were legalized statewide in 2015.
“People are driving to Myrtle Creek to buy it, people are driving to Roseburg to buy it,” Hayes said.
Residents said the current restrictions aren’t business-friendly at the recent city workshop. Others said the city works hard to create a family-friendly atmosphere and marijuana shops would hinder that.
“A liquor store, how does that make us kid-friendly,” Hayes said. “We have over a dozen places where you can buy alcohol.”