by Sen. Doug Whitsett
Measure 87 intentionally blurs the line of separation of powers
Ballot Measure 87 proposes to amend the Oregon Constitution to allow state court judges to teach in state universities or to serve in the Oregon National Guard. It would allow the judges to receive compensation from both jobs.
The measure further proposes allowing school employees to serve in the state Legislature while also being paid by universities or school districts.
The “separation of powers clause” is found in Article III, Section 1 of the Oregon Constitution. That clause strictly prohibits persons from being employed in more than one branch of government at the same time, and was written for good reason.
Our entire form of government was established upon the premise that the legislative, judicial and executive branches of government must operate independently from each other. The founders meant for each branch of government to check and balance the actions of the other two branches.
Article II, Section 10 of the Oregon Constitution further drives home that point. It specifically prohibits state court judges from receiving compensation for performing military service.
This separation of powers has been strictly adhered to, ever since Oregon was admitted into the United States. For instance, state legislators, and their employees, are rightfully prohibited from serving on Oregon Boards and Commissions.
The potential conflict of interest is obvious.
State court judges may not be elected to the Legislature, because they would be able to influence the enactment of the laws that they enforce.
We can only imagine the conflict of interest if executive branch directors, or their employees, were allowed to serve as legislators. Or conversely, the potential conflict if a legislator was allowed to work as an executive agency director, or as an employee of that director.
There are no Constitutional provisions that prohibit the same person from serving in different branches of government at different times.
For instance, former Governor Ted Kulongoski also served as a state Supreme Court justice and as a state legislator. Former University of Oregon President Dave Frohnmayer also served as Oregon’s Attorney General and as a state legislator. However, they were rightfully prohibited from holding the jobs at the same time.
Some people believe that these “relatively minor” adjustments to the “separation of powers” are warranted. I strongly disagree.
In my view, even with fully implemented separation of powers, governments already exercise too much power, and control, over our lives.
The clear purpose of Measure 87 is to intentionally blur that line of separation. It starts us down a pathway to the further consolidation of government power.
Because of all these reasons, I urge Oregon voters to reject Measure 87 in this November’s general election.
Senator Doug Whitsett is the Republican state senator representing Senate District 28 – Klamath Falls