Oregon Government 2.0 bill

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"I have complete faith in the ability of the American people to follow the facts if you give them..."

- Wayne Morse, a four-term United States Senator from Oregon.[1]

In the 2009 legislative session, Oregonians have an opportunity to take a significant ownership stake in their government and the work it produces. This web page will be used as a work space to develop a bill that will place works of state government legally in the public domain, and make them more accessible to the public in a practical sense.

The goals

Public domain

The law should assert unequivocally that works of state government are in the public domain, and are not subject to copyright protection by the agencies that produce them.


The public has a right to know how government money is being spent. This bill should establish a web site that discloses contracts entered into by state agencies (like the federal USAspending.gov).

There is precedent for this on a federal level (Obama/Coburn act, 2006), and in several states.

The Congressional Research Service issued a report in 2008 that finds shortcomings in the way USAspending.gov has been implemented.

Economic development

Many policies and programs are adopted in the interest of economic development. However, there is rarely public evaluation of these programs and their efficacy. This bill should establish guidelines and procedures for evaluating economic development spending, and how effectively they achieve their desired results.

See Senate Bill 518 of 2007, introduced by Senator Vicki Walker, but not passed.


There are many public- and private-sector organizations (nonprofits, universities, Internet-based communities, neighborhood associations) that aim to work in the public interest. To the degree that government initiatives are available for scrutiny, these organizations may lend their own innovative approaches to the process. But when it's difficult to discern what government is doing, this sort of innovation is stifled.

This bill should aim to establish an environment conducive to innovation.

Related, but maybe outside the scope of this project

  • Upgrading internal web tools of the Legislature to reflect current technology: diffs, wiki-like collaboration
  • Advocating for collaborative efforts for legislation outside of government (like this one)
  • Clear disclosure of campaign contributions: a poster, or a web page, that shows what legislators received how much from what sources. (Chris Beck's idea)

Relevant laws

Oregon Blue Book

ORS 177.120 dictates when the Oregon Blue Book shall be published, by whom, and how it shall be distributed. It says, "The Secretary of State may cause the Oregon Blue Book to be copyrighted." According to Julie Yamaka, managing editor for the Blue Book, "This is general copyright authority."

"Patents and copyrights" in the index to the ORS

http://www.leg.state.or.us/ors/orsindex/ (Caution! The .pdf files are very large and can make your browser freeze.)

Beef Council, Oregon, 577.355
Blue Book, Oregon, 177.120
Commodity commissions, 576.317
Federal, see UNITED STATES
Intellectual property
Beef Council, Oregon, 577.355
Commodity commissions, 576.317
Community college districts, 341.319
Education, State Board of, 326.520, 326.530, 326.540
Higher Education, State Board of, 351.220
Housing, governmental entities, 456.128, 456.562
School districts, 332.745, 332.750
Wheat Commission, Oregon, 578.105
Labor and employment, assembled labor force, taxation, intangible personal property exemption, 307.020, 307.030
Legislative Administration Committee staff, materials produced, rules, 173.770
Legislative Assembly, see LEGISLATURE
Letters patent, annulment, see QUO WARRANTO
State lands, see STATE LANDS
Income, allocation, 314.625, 314.645
Intangible personal property exemption, 307.020, 307.030
Wheat Commission, Oregon, 578.105

Open meeting law

It would be good to research Oregon Ballot Measure 2 (May 1978) (redlink), which established Oregon's open meeting laws for the legislature. It passed with 85% of the vote. (see these sections of ORS, courtesy of open-oregon.com, and this outline of relevant issues.)

See also Oregon Ballot Measure 2 (November 1974) (redlink) which established open deliberations of the Legislature; and a recent WW story about public records and concealed-carry permits.

Overview/timetable for 2008–2009

  1.  Done October 31: Submit a memo to the Oregon Legislative Counsel (LC).
  2. December 31: Work with LC to pre-file a bill for the 2009 session.
  3. January 9: Legislative session begins. We will need sponsor(s) in the House and/or Senate. Likely candidates: Ben Cannon, Jefferson Smith (House), Vicki Walker (Senate). Separately, Larry George is sponsoring a bill to put the Oregon Revised Statutes into the public domain, and Matt Wingard is sponsoring a piece of gov't spending transparency legislation.
  4. Committee hearings: In Oregon, pending legislation is heavily processed in committees. We will need to work closely with whatever committee this bill is assigned to. Amendments are common.
  5. Lobbying legislators: We will need to communicate with all 90 members of the Oregon Legislative Assembly before the bill comes to a vote.

Background concepts

There are several related, but distinct concepts involved in this project:

  • A matter of principle (and common law): the public owns what the public funds
  • Efficiency of government agencies: empower the public to do work outside of government
  • Transparency of tax dollar expenditures: what is the government paying for? (See similar Federal act), efforts in other states)
  • Accountability of economic incentive packages (see Senate Bill 518 of 2007, introduced by Vicki Walker)

Trends, Context

"You never know where innovation comes from, but in an innovation environment, you welcome it."

- Eric Schmidt, CEO of Google.[2]


There was great blog support for the Legislative Counsel action earlier this year, and it's clear from numerous private conversations that there's lots of public support for this stuff. We need to be on the lookout for opportunities to get it in the news. The LC uprising resulted from an unpopular action on the part of the committee; but we don't have something of that nature. How else can we grab the attention of reporters, bloggers, the public?

We also need to be lobbying individual legislators. One small piece of that: Pete is planning to send an email to all legislators, on behalf of WikiProject Oregon, inviting them to submit a photo for use on Wikipedia. The letter will note that photos already published on the state web site are not available to a project like Wikipedia, because they are copyright. I will send this out after legislators have assembled in Salem, so that hopefully their staffers will talk it over amongst themselves; also, we will try to get it on the agendas of caucus committees (so that the caucuses are telling their members "don't forget to send in a photo.") Ross has offered to help with that part.

We need to generate or find some clear examples of the benefits that would follow.

  • Take a section of the Constitution (already being done at Wikisource), or a chapter of the Oregon Revised Statutes, and republish it in a format that's accessible, performs well on search engines, has internal section linking, and links to information about how certain items were passed (e.g., the ballot measure or bill that established that paragraph).
  • Wikipedia's List of Oregon ballot measures is far more useful than the analogous page on the Secretary of State's web site, which does not link to the ballot measures, is not sortable, etc.

Portland-based Flash Developer Peter Cruzat has volunteered time towards an instructional animation/video to explain this project to the EveryMan. Rather than going through the specifics of implementation, the piece would review the needs of the concepts involved in order to garner public support. The piece should exceed no more than 6–7 minutes in length, covering 5–6 primary topics. The group should have a script prepared by 3/1, with the period of 3/2–3/22 for ironing out details of the piece, and production would be during the week of 3/23–3/27. The first task would be to hammer out the language to be used in the piece, as the first step in production would be recording the voiceover (Peter Cruzat also has experience in sound recording and engineering). The build should be completed by 3/27 for group review that weekend (the 28th–29th), with any issues addressed on 3/30–3/31. The final goal is completion of the animation by 4/1, so further rounds of revision on the back end will require an expedited scripting process on the front end.




  • Come up with a catchy and accurate title for the bill
  • Develop the connection with releasing the Oregon Revised Statutes into the public domain. Wikify some portion of the Constitution and/or ORS, showing what can be done when things are in the public domain
  • Email legislators, inviting them to submit a photo for use on Wikipedia; explain why photos on legislative web site are ineligible for this kind of use.
  • Maps (e.g. of legislative districts) and Wikipedia
  • Compile examples of bad publishing. For instance, committee membership in a PDF instead of plain HTML.

Possible obstacles

  • There will be a perception that requiring agencies to publish their work in different formats will cost money. We believe that savings in other areas will far outstrip this, but need to make the case clearly.
  • Agencies may be hesitant to make their work more open to scrutiny.
  • Some people may be inclined to see this as a "liberal" or a "conservative" movement. Our contention should be that government transparency and efficiency are ends in themselves, and that neither liberal nor conservative movements can claim ownership of these broad themes. We should build a broad coalition around this idea, spanning the traditional political spectrum.

People and groups to involve

Shortcut to this page: http://is.gd/7MhS


Are you supportive of this effort? Please sign your name below!


Are you willing to work on refining this bill, and/or work for its passage? Sign up below!

Legislators' support and/or statements

A record of the legislators from whom we've received statements on our legislation, and whether they appear to support it.


  1. Doug Whitsett (R–28) — "I would expect to support such a bill as I have always been a strong advocate for more transparency and more meaningful public participation in Oregon government."


  1. Ben Cannon (D–46)
  2. Jefferson Smith (D–47)
  3. Bill Garrard (R–56) expresses very encouraging interest.

List of participants' legislators

Please tell us who your state legislator is. If you don't know, find out.

Senator Party District Home Representative Party District Home Constituents Notes
Jeff Kruse R 1 Roseburg Wayne Krieger R 1 Gold Beach
Tim Freeman R 2 Roseburg
Jason Atkinson R 2 Roseburg Ron Maurer R 3 Grants Pass
Dennis Richardson R 4 Central Point
Joanne Verger D 5 Coos Bay Arnie Roblan D 9 Coos Bay Roblan: Chair of
House Rules Committee
Jean Cowan D 10 Newport
Bill Morrisette D 6 Springfield Phil Barnhart D 11 Linn/Lane Cos.
Elizabeth Terry Beyer D 12 Springfield
Vicki Walker D 7 Eugene Nancy Nathanson D 13 Eugene Edwards: Vice chair of
House Rules Committee
Chris Edwards D 14 Eugene
Frank Morse R 8 Albany Andy Olson R 15 Albany Gelser: Member of
House Rules Committee
Sara Gelser D 16 Corvallis
Fred Girod R 9 Stayton Sherrie Sprenger R 17 Scio
Vic Gilliam R 18 Silverton
Jackie Winters R 10 Salem Kevin Cameron R 19 Salem Berger: Vice chair of
House Rules Committee
Vicki Berger R 20 Salem
Mark Hass D 14 Beaverton Tobias Read D 27 Beaverton Read: Member of
House Rules Committee
Jeff Barker D 28 Aloha
Ginny Burdick D 18 Portland Larry Galizio D 35 Tigard Nolan: Member of
House Rules Committee
Mary Nolan D 36 Portland Dylan Amo
Richard Devlin D 19 Tualatin Scott Bruun R 37 West Linn
Chris Garrett D 38 Lake Oswego TJ
Margaret Carter D 22 Portland Chip Shields D 43 Portland
Tina Kotek D 44 Portland Bear Wilner-Nugent
Jackie Dingfelder D 23 Portland Michael Dembrow D 45 Portland Cannon: Sponsor of HB 3091
Ben Cannon D 46 Portland Pete Forsyth,
Kotra DeNies,
Mazarine Treyz
Rod Monroe D 24 Portland Jefferson Smith D 47 Portland
Mike Schaufler D 48 Happy Valley
Doug Whitsett R 28 Klamath Falls George Gilman R 55 Medford Garrard: Member of
House Rules Committee
Bill Garrard R 56 Klamath Falls Patrick Vroman
David Nelson R 29 Pendleton Greg Smith R 57 Heppner Jenson: Member of
House Rules Committee
Bob Jenson R 58 Pendleton