Saturday, October 09, 2004

My take on Oregon's ballot measures...
from the mind of  Daredemo.

I finally checked my (physical) mailbox and found the ballot measures edition of the Oregon State voter's pamphlet had arrived sometime this week. I usually try to spend a fair amount of time going through this, so since we're doing this blog I thought it might be worthwhile documenting my conclusions... Enjoy!

Measure 31

Amends Constitution: Authorizes law permitting postponement of election for particular public office when nominee for office dies

This appears to be a general maintenance measure, currently if the candidate for an office wins the election, but dies before taking office (or vice versa, dead guy winning election), either the incumbent stays in office until another election is held, or there's a a vacancy depending on the office involved. Its apparently connected to Oregon Senate Bill 552, that passed, which requires major parties to replace deceased candidates. Sounds like it can help prevent some of the shenanigans certain parties have a propensity to do in this situtation...


Measure 32

Amends Constitution: Deletes reference to mobile homes from provision dealing with taxes and fees on motor vehicles

Another "maintenance" measure. Mobile homes appear to be currently regulated by the Dept. of Motor Vehicles whether they are indeed mobile or not. Apparently they must even have a license plate. This measure moves them to being treated like usual stationary houses for tax and housing code purposes (since these things tend to fare the worst in natural disasters, mobile homes being subject to housing codes rather than vehicle codes sounds like a good idea). They will be regulated as vehicles if in transit though.


Measure 33

Amends Medical Marijuana Act: Requires marijuana dispensaries for supplying patients/caregivers; raises patients' possession limit

I'm marginally divided on this one, being somewhat libertarian minded, I could care less what chemicals people choose to stick in their bodies, as long as they aren't driving the airplane I'm riding in. But this seems to be a very good formula for abuse and corruption -- introduce new bureaucracy and minimize the qualifications for one to be a part of it. All relating to a substance thats still technically illegal and in high demand. This looks to me like it was written with the forethought and attention to detail that only a pothead can give. I am also somewhat swayed by the Oregon Medical Association's argument in opposition. The fact that it will cost money to implement seals it.


Measure 34

Requires balancing timber production, resource conservation/preservation in managing state forests; specifically addresses two forests

So in the 30's and 40's forests in northwestern Oregon were essentially destroyed by a series of large wildfires now called the "Tillamook Burn". If ever there was a case for managing our forests this was it. Those forests now are reaching maturity, and this appears to be an effort by environmentalists to prevent harvesting the timber from these forests. I don't see why Californians should have any more pull over how Oregon's forests are managed than they do now. Further, enacting this will both decrease state revenues and increase expenditures, not something to do when the state's bleeding money.


Measure 35

Amends Constitution: Limits noneconomic damages (defined) recoverable for patient injuries caused by healthcare provider's negligence or recklessness

This is the anti John Edwards measure. It only caps subjective "pain and suffering" damages to $500,000 in cases of nonintentional negligence. The $500,000 cap would increase linearly with the Consumer Price Index each year to adjust for inflation (deflation?). It is opposed by organizations like OSPIRG and AFT, organizations I use as reliable litmus tests to vote opposite to.


Measure 36

Amends Constitution: only marriage between one man and one woman is valid or legally recognized as marriage

Despite the hype surrounding it, this is also just another maintenance measure. Currently the only requirement on parties wishing to be married are:
106.010 Marriage as civil contract; age of parties. Marriage is a civil contract entered into in person by males at least 17 years of age and females at least 17 years of age, who are otherwise capable, and solemnized in accordance with ORS 106.150.

The issue here is that this taken alone could require any combination of males or females of any species that are 18 years (17 year old creatures require parental permission, and therefore sentience) of age or older to enter into marriage. It also appears that there is no restriction on number that may enter into a marriage, the only restriction there is that they are not already currently married. Though now that I read through the law further I see:
106.150 Form of solemnization; witnesses; solemnization before congregation. (1) In the solemnization of a marriage no particular form is required except that the parties thereto shall assent or declare in the presence of the clergyperson, county clerk or judicial officer solemnizing the marriage and in the presence of at least two witnesses, that they take each other to be husband and wife.

OK, "each other" implies two. But then the "husband and wife" line there also appears fairly clear, were circumstances normal I would say thats good enough, and oppose the change. But some local authorities seem to view that as vague, and have issued hundreds of licenses to male-male, and female-female couples. So far I have not yet heard of nonhumans being issued marriage licenses in Oregon, but I believe currently there is no restriction on this. By current standards a guy could legally marry an 18 year old parrot in the state of Oregon.

The new language added would be:
It is the policy of Oregon, and its political subdivisions, that only a marriage between one man and one woman shall be valid or legally recognized as a marriage

This makes the law clear as to what makes up a marriage. One man and one woman. Implicit in that is that they both be human. Also note that there is no language here restricting people of any sexual preference from entering into a marriage. A homosexual man can marry a homosexual woman just as legally as a heterosexual pair.


Measure 37

Governments must pay owners, or forgo enforcement, when certain land use restrictions reduce property value

Although in principle I believe limiting the government's ability to control private land use is a very good thing, I'm not certain this is the way to do it. For example, I know that there are currently very strong restrictions on rural land use, which severely limit the ability of the owner to build any kind of structure on it. Limits like that kill economic development. This measure does not relieve that problem, and instead appears to require the state to reimburse landowners millions of dollars for past and current land use revisions. Far better would be to revise/remove those restrictions, and allow economic development that would contribute to state coffers in the long term.


Measure 38

Abolishes SAIF; state must reinsure, satisfy saif's obligations; dedicates proceeds, potential surplus to public purposes

I don't like the idea of SAIF in general -- a government run insurance company. However, as I peruse the voters pamphlet I see that this measure roughly is a dispute between SAIF and a competing private insurance company, Liberty Mutual. SAIF wants to continue to exist, Liberty Mutual wants it to go away. One possibility is that if SAIF disappears it will allow Liberty Mutual to raise its rates. Liberty Mutual seems to argue that SAIF will run it out of business and become a monopoly. I don't know, I'm not insured by either one, so that in itself doesn't do a lot for me. What does sway this for me though is the estimate of financial impact. In there it is claimed that passing this bill will drop state revenue by $405 million per year, while reducing expenditures by $301 million per year. That and some simple subtraction then tells me that SAIF makes the state $104 million per year. Further, killing SAIF apparently will cost the state a one time shot of $2.2-2.4 BILLION. (for comparison it looks like that number is more than half what the Governor's 2003-5 proposed budget wants to spend on all higher education, or is approximately the same as what is to be spent on all public safety). So based on that, whatever kind of beastie SAIF is, it appears to pay for itself, and would cost a heck of a lot to abolish.


OK, so there you go -- if you're still awake, that's how I think I'm going to vote on these guys.


Blogger Duke said...

I'm a little unsettled by all of these "amends constitution" measures. It seems to me that the constitution should be reserved for the high level stuff, leaving the rest to the legislature. When the constitution grows to the point that it includes the words "mobile home" and "timber production", it's hard not to feel that a certain necessary focus has been lost.

Yes, I am going to vote in favor of measure 36, but I feel in this case that such a step is necessary to take the issue out of the hands of activist judges like those in CA and MA. With the possible exception of #31, the content of the others don't seem to necessitate their being in the constitution.

6:51 PM  
Blogger Daredemo said...

Good point, I'd agree with that were Oregon's constitution like the U.S. constitution, but I think it has already been fairly seriously bastardized...

The whole thing is here.

I mean we have articles of the constitution devoted to things like "Seismic Rehabilitation of Public Education Buildings" (Article XI-M) -- and there's an article that was evidently in the original 1859 constitution that was removed (Article XIII, Salaries) We actually have an article in our constitution called "Miscellaneous" (XV)!

I don't know about other states, but our constitution certainly looks like alpha code, where the US constitution would (hopefully) be the finished, fully beta-tested product. Now imagine alpha code that you allow to be edited by everyone in the state as long as you get a majority vote, and you get the Oregon Constitution.

9:31 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home