10 October 2012 by Published in: Opinion No comments yet


Editorial Comments

by Deborah Steele Hazen

At a gathering last weekend where the coming election was the topic of conversation, a friend remarked that she knew many people who are eligible to vote, but do not.

She is doing what she can to drag them out of their apathy and convince them that – not only is it their duty as responsible citizens of a constitutional republic to vote – but their votes, especially when grouped together with others of like minds, do make a difference.

We have seen local races and issues decided by single digit margins.

It is almost inconceivable to those of us raised in families who vote in every single election – and consider it an honor, privilege and responsibility to do so -  that a citizen of the United States of America would choose not to vote.

The deadline to register to vote for the Nov. 6th election – in which we will elect a president, a U.S. representative, several state officers, a state representative, two county commissioners, a sheriff, city councilors and mayors, plus decide on nine state measures – is Oct. 16.

You can register on-line at http://www.oregonvotes.org/pages/voterresources/regtovote/index.html, or at any county election office or Department of Motor Vehicles office.

The voters pamphlet is supposed to be mailed this week. We have begun our study of the statewide measures.

Measure 77 

If passed, Measure 77 would give the governor constitutional authority to declare a “catastrophic disaster,” in the event of such events as acts of terrorism, earthquakes, floods, public health emergencies, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions and war.

It would also allow the governor to override laws allocating money to state agencies in order to respond to the disaster, and would allow the legislature to spend state highway funds for any purpose, spend money that would otherwise go to individual and corporate tax “kicker” refunds, exceed the state debt limit, override funding of local mandate provisions, and spend any lottery funds.

These “catastrophic disaster” powers would last for 30 days after the governor makes the declaration, and could be extended by another 30-days by the legislature.

Frankly, all of this makes us nervous. Visions of big brother dance in our heads.

Among other provisions of this constitutional amendment would be to allow the legislature to meet somewhere else other than the state capitol, and to allow action by two-thirds of the members  of the legislature able to attend a session if natural disaster keeps them, from meeting in Salem or in the event of mass casualties.

Measure 77 passed the Legislature by an overwhelming 87-3 vote, but the Oregon Republican Party State Central Committee has come out against it because of concerns about unintended consequences and possible misuse of disaster declarations.

We agree. Some of Measure 77’s provisions make good sense, but there have been too many checks and balances removed. We’ll vote no.

Measure 78 

Measure 78 is another legislatively-referred constitutional amendment, but this one is pretty simple and straightforward.

It updates grammar and spelling in the Constitution; changes a few words to comply with current usage,  inserts gender-neutral pronouns, and updates the Oregon Constitution to comply with the federal Constitution.

We’ll vote yes.

Measure 79

Measure 79 was placed on the ballot through initiative petition and amends the Oregon Constitution to prohibit real estate transfer taxes, fees and other assessments except those that were in effect as of Dec. 31, 2009.

Opponents of this measure argue that it fixes a problem that doesn’t exist. We don’t have a state imposed real estate transfer tax. Do we need to prohibit it in the Constitution? They are valid questions.

Many of those who believe that Oregon’s taxing system needs reforming don’t want this option taken off the table.

We believe that Oregon’s tax system is deeply flawed with its reliance on income taxes for state services and property taxes for local services. That makes state and local services very vulnerable in a time of falling incomes and property values.

However, if anyone is thinking that this might be the right time to impose real estate taxes, they’re wrong. We’ll vote yes.

Measure 80 

One of the more controversial issues on the ballot, Measure 80 would in effect legalize marijuana in Oregon, allowing personal marijuna possession, cultivation and use without a license.

It would also allow hemp cultivation,  and  would create a “commission” to regulate marijuana and hemp.

Proponents try to make the case that we are spending too much on the enforcement of marijuana laws, that its legalization would be an economic boon, and that it is relatively harmless. They compare the current situation with prohibition.

As someone who did smoke marijuana as a young adult, I don’t buy any of that.

Oregon’s marijuana laws are plenty lax already. Most marijuana charges come in combination with other crimes or misdemeanors.

No matter how much they try to say it isn’t, marijuana is a gateway drug – next to alcohol, the most common substance that leads to the use and abuse of even more dangerous drugs.

Today’s marijuana is much stronger – its THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol) concentrations are much higher – than what was smoked in the 1960s and ‘70s.

It is psychoactive. It messes with your mind. It negatively effects coordination, focus, concentration and productivity. It is dangerous for people who are high on marijuana to operate machinery and vehicles. It’s legalization would create a nightmare in the workplace. It can’t be good for your respiratory system, and it’s been linked to chromosomal mutations.

Just say no to Measure 80.

(We will continue our discussion of the ballot measures next week, starting with Measure 81 which would ban gillnet fishing in Oregon. Just say no to that, too. Citizens who can’t go sport fishing deserve to eat salmon, too.)



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