October 17, 2005

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  • Good-bye initiative?
    Measure 37 is a troublesome law because it threatens to gobble up much of rural Oregon for development. But the seemingly capricious decision by a Marion County judge, Mary James, to invalidate the law is far worse.The decision probably will not stand on appeal. It is too far out in terms of legal support. But if it does stand, Oregonians can kiss the initiative good-bye as a way of making changes in the way the state operates.
    Measure 37 did not change the state constitution. It was a statutory initiative. But it is impossible for the voter to understand how it could be considered unconstitutional, or to believe that it is.
    The judge found that the measure violated the equal-protection clause because it benefited only people who were potentially harmed by changes in land-use rules. Exactly. That was the point. There’s no reason to compensate buyers for restrictions already in effect when they bought. Every law benefits only people to whom it applies. How can this be suddenly unconstitutional?The judge also found the measure intruded on legislative authority. Of course it did. So does every citizen initiative. That’s the point of initiatives.The initiative process has its flaws. But Oregon can’t allow a circuit judge to throw all of it out. (hh)
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