The Operation of the Initiative, Referendum and Recall in Oregon

By James D. Barnett | Go to book overview

CHAPTER XIX
THE REFERENDUM AS A SUBSTITUTE FOR CONSTITUTIONAL LIMITATIONS UPON THE LEGISLATIVE ASSEMBLY

NUMEROUS limitations upon the power of the legislature have been considered in the past an absolute necessity on account of the actual or possible mistakes or abuses of power by the legislature. The legislature has thus been unable, in many matters, to institute reforms except by the submission of constitutional amendments to the people, and the people, on the other hand, have had to vote upon questions which in some instances they would doubtless have preferred to leave to the judgment of the legislature if they had had any power to correct the action of the legislature in case correction might be really needed. The check upon the legislature now secured through the referendum makes unnecessary many of the present limitations, and this opens the way for entrusting more power to the legislature. The substitution, to some extent, of the optional for the obligatory referendum would bring a very great advantage, especially in case of technical measures of legislation, which the voters are likely to reject when submitted to them for the simple reason that they do not understand them.1 Further, in removing some of the sources of possible conflict between constitutional and statutory provisions, this reform would, so far, substitute the legislation of the assembly for the jurisdiction of the courts, and thus favor policy rather than technicality in legislation.2

____________________
1
Above, pp. 37-41, 112-13.
2
"The judicial control over legislation is not in any case an unmixed blessing, because it decreases legislative efficiency and as employed to the present time has often checked for many years needed reforms which the courts have been forced to accept in the end, but the state judicial power over legislation when employed as frequently and as irresponsibly as during the past thirty years, can hardly be considered an instrument of very great value. In fact the referendum has in some cases been advocated because of the belief that it will weaken or destroy this very power." W. F. Dodd, Revision and Amendment of State Constitutions, pp. 254-5 ( 1910).

-171-

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