Guest opinion article written by Sue Malek for the Missoulian:
Should we enact Citizen Initiative Review Commissions (CIRCs)* in Montana? A bipartisan bill in the Oregon Legislature established CIRCs in 2008. Twenty-four citizens, randomly selected to serve, are paid salaries and expenses for participation in groups that study initiative issues and publish a statement describing the pros and cons to voters. Nonprofit groups provide the funding.
I retired in January after serving 12 years in the Montana legislature. We Democrats experienced some wins and losses. Legislation that survived was often bipartisan because although the legislature was dominated by Republicans throughout that time, Democratic governors provided a counterbalance and worked closely with Republican lawmakers to sponsor and pass legislation.
*Editor’s note on terminology: Note that in Oregon the CIR Commission (or CIRC) is actually the state governing body for the CIR system, not the body that actually reviews ballot measures and writes voter information for the voters’ pamphlet. Rather, the CIRC only selects which measure(s) should be reviewed in a given year, overseas the selection of background experts, and contracts with process experts to run the CIR process. Then, separate lottery-selected CIR Panels (also called Citizen Panels) of two-dozen Oregonians are convened to conduct the actual review of each initiative and write text for the pamphlet, the final version of which is published directly to the voters’ pamphlet, without review by the CIRC (or anyone else). We know this terminology is tricky but hope this clears it up.