Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno rejected two initiative petitions in December because they included more than one topic. It’s the second time recently she’s told would-be petition sponsors they must stick to the state’s single-subject rule, which says petitions must be limited to only one change.

Clarno won the first case, which involved three proposed initiatives, in Marion County Circuit Court in late November, though the ruling is being challenged in the Court of Appeals.

Clarno recently tossed out Initiative Petitions 48 and 49 for the same reason she denied the earlier pair.

The two measures are roughly identical. Each would require that all electricity sold in Oregon be from renewable sources and carbon-free resources. That is, presumably, what really matters to the folks at Renew Oregon, who are pushing the bills at least in part to make their goals law no matter what the 2020 Legislature does.

Unfortunately, the measures don’t stop there. They include all sorts of rules on working conditions, the sorts of things that are the result of labor negotiations, not a statewide vote. The rules cover everything from prevailing wage requirements to mandatory participation in apprenticeship programs and proof the utilities have a history of obeying existing state and federal wage and hour laws. And, during the switch to 100% renewables, utilities would be charged with working to see that everyone benefits from the switch.

They are, in other words, multifaceted proposals that deal with multiple subjects.

And that, the state constitution says in several places, is not the way the system works. The state constitution clearly says that “a proposed law or Amendment shall embrace one subject only and matters properly contained therein” [Article IV, Section 1 (2)(d)].

That’s not particularly ambiguous language, in Clarno’s view. The only judge to rule on the issue so far has seen it her way. With luck, a new round of judges will agree.

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