To understand why Oregon’s liberal establishment is so hostile to Bill Sizemore, all one has to do is peruse the list of measures Sizemore has placed on the Oregon ballot. Most of the measures failed after obscene amounts of money were spent opposing them, mostly by public employee unions. Other measures passed and were later nullified by a very liberal, activist state supreme court, one that is known nationwide for throwing out conservative measures just because they didn’t like them. But even those that passed and were thrown out by the court were usually passed again in a modified form, or resulted in the legislature acting to address an issue that it had previously ignored.
Following is a list of Sizemore measures for your review:
A 1994 measure that required voter approval for all new or increased taxes and fees. This measure failed badly due to a bad ballot title that made voters think they were voting yes when they were voting no. Pre-election newspaper polling showed voters overwhelming in favor of the concept of the measure, but confused by the ballot description drafted by the attorney general. The measure was placed back on the ballot in 2000.
A 1994 measure that scaled back some of the excesses of Oregon’s public employee retirement system (PERS), including getting rid of the six percent PERS pickup, so employees would contribute toward the cost of their pension program, and also eliminating the eight percent guaranteed annual rate of return on money in the PERS fund. After a very expensive and nasty fight this measure passed but was later nullified by an Oregon Supreme Court comprised of seven PERS participants. Had the court left the measure in place it would have saved taxpayers more than $10 billion. PERS excesses continue to plague the state to this date, eating away at the general fund. PERS overruns have required the layoff of thousands of school teachers in the state of Oregon.
A 1996 referendum measure forcing a statewide vote on a $3 billion light rail system in Portland. Sizemore won the vote and stopped the light rail boondoggle, but politicians went ahead with the project anyway, this time absent the huge tax increases their original bill would have imposed.
A 1996 measure reducing property taxes by more than $1 billion per biennium and capping future increases at not more than three percent per year. The measure passed, but with Sizemore’s assistance and cooperation was later rewritten by the state legislature. The rewrite was a compromise that contained more than 90 percent of the benefits of the original bill but placed the measure outside the reach of the courts. The rewrite passed and thus far Oregon taxpayers have saved more than $10 billion from this measure.
A 1998 measure prohibiting the use of public resources to collect political funds. This measure would have stopped public employee unions from using the public payroll system to collect their coerced political “donations.” Studies have shown that more than 90 percent of union workers do not give to union political funds when given the choice, so the unions went ballistic. Public employee unions spent well over $5 million against this measure and yet won by less than half-of-one percent.
A 2000 measure making federal income taxes fully deductible on state tax returns. The measure failed due to the legislature placing a competing measure on the ballot that made the first $3,000 of a person’s federal income taxes deductible. That amount was indexed to inflation and now stands at about $6,000. Even though Sizemore’s measure failed, it forced a compromise measure that saves taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars per year.
A 2000 measure again attempted to require voter approval for new or increased taxes and fees, as in the 1994 measure. This time the measure came close, but failed.
A 2000 measure prohibiting the use of public resources to collect political funds. Public employee unions spent well over $5 million against this measure, as they did in 1998, and again won by less than half of one percent.
A 2000 measure prohibiting deducting money from employees’ paychecks for politics without first getting the employees’ written consent. Unions spent a fortune with most of the ads personally attacking Sizemore and when the dust settled the measure only received 45 percent of the vote.
A 2000 measure requiring government to pay just compensation to a property owner, if government placed a restriction on the use of a person’s property after they owned in and that restriction had the effect of lowering the value of the property. The measure passed but was tossed by the Oregon Supreme Court because it did not require paying compensation to porn shops and nude dancing parlors wishing to locate near a school or church. This was one of the more egregious decisions by an increasing arrogant and liberal Oregon court. The measure was placed back on the ballot as Measure 37 two years later and passed again and this time due to some modifications in form was not overturned.
A 2000 measure requiring performance based pay for school teachers rather than seniority and requiring schools to keep the best teachers when layoff occurs without regard to seniority. The measure failed.
A 2000 measure prohibiting the state legislature from passing laws aimed at making it more difficult for voters to place measures on the ballot. The measure failed.
In 2002 Sizemore attempted to put another measure on the ballot to prohibit the use of public resources to collect political funds. The measure qualified for the ballot but the Democrat Secretary of State took the unprecedented action of allowing a union led group step in and disqualify signatures that had already been certified and removed the measure from the ballot. Sizemore went to court and proved that he had enough signatures but the court ruled that a signature in not a person’s signature if the secretary of state says it isn’t, even if a handwriting expert says the signature is valid and even if the voter signs a sworn affidavit saying that the signature is genuine. This obscene maneuver saved the public employee unions another $5- 10 million campaign fight.
A 2004 measure prohibiting insurance companies to increase car insurance rates based on the credit score of the driver. The insurance companies spent nearly $5 million, most of it smearing Sizemore personally, and handily defeated the measure.
A 2006 measure to allow state income tax payers to have the same deduction on their state tax return as they receive for each personal exemption on their federal return. Sizemore had others take the lead on this measure, which he drafted and placed on the ballot. This measure failed.
A 2006 measure requiring supreme court and appeals court judges to be elected by district rather than statewide. This effort to break up Portland lawyers grip on the appellate courts failed.
A 2008 measure prohibiting the use of public resources to collect political funds. The unions spent a record $15 million fighting this new set of measures and defeated them all. Every ad attacked Sizemore, including a series of ads saying he was a convicted felon and also had been convicted of fraud, forgery, and racketeering. Sizemore had never even been charged with any of these crimes, or any other, but the Oregon Supreme Court issued a writ of mandamus forcing a trial court judge to rule that the union statements were true. Sizemore has still not been charged with any of these crimes and is not a felon.
A 2008 measure requiring merit pay for teachers rather than seniority based pay. The measure failed.
A 2008 measure requiring English immersion for all none English speaking immigrant students. The teachers unions strongly opposed this measure and it only received 47-48 percent of the vote.
A 2008 measure allowing minor improvements to residential property without a building permit, provided that a licensed electrician signed off on any electrical work and all local zoning and property line setbacks and height restrictions were observed. Contractors, afraid they would lose a lot of remodeling jobs, ran a television campaign and defeated the measure in a fairly close vote.
A 2008 measure making federal income taxes fully deductible on state tax returns. The measure again failed.
Other measures Sizemore worked on
In addition to the above measures, Sizemore placed several other measures on the ballot for other people or groups. He qualified several anti-crime measures for the ballot and a measure requiring legislative oversight of administrative rules adopted by the unelected bureaucrats running state agencies. He also ran most of the Term Limits signature drive to replace term limits after the Oregon Supreme Court threw out the measure the voters approved in 1992. Sizemore also drafted a measure to prevent governments from using the condemnation and eminent domain laws to take property from a private owner and sell it to a developer who would pay higher taxes on the property. At the request of Oregonians in Action, a property rights group, Sizemore backed off and let OIA take his idea, modify it slightly, and place it on the ballot. The measure passed overwhelmingly.
Measures Bill Sizemore filed but never placed on the ballot
Sizemore also filed several measures that he did not place on the ballot due to bad ballot titles that were sabotaged by the state attorney general and/or the Oregon Supreme Court. These included Right to Work measures, limits on state spending, a measure requiring workplace secret ballot elections every two to four years deciding whether unionized employees wished to continue union representation, a measure making the offices of secretary of state and attorney general nonpartisan, a measure abolishing inheritance taxes, a measure to prohibit banks from gouging with excessive overdraft fees, a measure removing the incumbency label for sitting judges, a measure prohibiting the legislature from placing emergency labels on non-emergency bills to prevent referral of the bill to voters, a measure making it a crime of bribery for public employee unions to donate money to candidates for office with which they would late negotiate collective bargaining contracts, several versions of school choice measures, a measure repealing Little Davis Bacon laws, a measure abolishing public employee unions altogether, measures removing the $80,000 income test a property owner must meet before being allowed to build a house on their farm property, a homestead exemption measure providing that the first $100,000 of a property’s value is free from taxation once the resident owner reaches age 65, a measure prohibiting property tax increases passed in small special elections with low voter turnout, and several more.
Sizemore had the ability to place a lot more measures on the ballot than he did, but sabotaged ballot titles often made good ideas that were popular with voters not passable due to confusing ballot descriptions laced with double negatives or technical legalese. The ballot titles for hundreds of measures Bill Sizemore filed were appealed to the Oregon Supreme Court by Sizemore, or more often by his union opponents, and he only place on the ballot those thought to have a chance of passing even after multi-million opposition campaigns.
Bill Sizemore’s initiative work has been discussed in books on direct democracy, as well as newspaper and magazine articles nationwide. He has appeared on several national news shows, including the ABC World News at Night. He has been called everything from the initiative king or initiative guru to the sultan of signatures. He has worked behind the scenes on initiative campaigns in other states and has been flown in as a guest speaker, to give expert testimony, or to address national and international groups and legislative committees studying the initiative process.