Measure 49: What is in a ballot title?

Have you read Measure 49? No, I don’t mean have you read the ballot title, or watched the political ads, or listened to the advocates discuss it. Have you read it? Really read it?

That is the single most important question you will confront when considering Measure 49 at the special election in November.

In most instances, voters can rely on information contained in the official ballot title for a measure. For decades, Oregon law has required the Oregon Attorney General to craft the ballot title. The public is then given an opportunity to comment on the draft, and the Oregon Supreme Court reviews the Attorney General’s draft to ensure that it is both fair and accurate, and not a statement in support or opposition to the measure.

In most instances, before any significant legislation is adopted, Oregonians can rely on the public hearings at the legislature, the give and take of the debates and the opportunity for proponents and opponents to comment on the effect of the language in the bill.

In most instances, voters can rely on public records and Oregon’s sunshine laws to disclose the manner in which various special interest groups influence the progress of legislation and judge the degree of that influence.

In most instances, all of that is true – but not in this instance. That is why the fundamental question for you as a voter is, “Have you read Measure 49?”

There is no better description of the corruption of the legislative process leading to Measure 49 than the words of Sen. Ted Ferrioli (Senate Minority Leader) and Rep. Wayne Scott (House Minority Leader):

“Because Measure 49 makes such a significant change to Oregon law, you would think that the legislature would have consulted with top experts, held numerous public hearings, and drafted a fair and unbiased ballot title to make sure that Measure 49 would work and that all Oregonians would be heard. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth.

“The legislative process for referring Measure 49 was steeped in secrecy, special favors, and suspension of laws that have been in place for decades to protect the public from manipulative and misleading ballot titles and statements.

“How do we know? We were the legislative leaders of our respective caucuses during the last legislative session. We tried unsuccessfully to forge a bipartisan Measure, ensure that the public was heard on this important issue, and make sure that the Oregon Attorney General and Oregon Supreme Court performed their traditional roles regarding ballot measures.

“Unfortunately, we could not prevent this corruption of power. The end result was that every member of our caucuses voted against Measure 49.”

The process leading to Measure 49 offers a crystal clear view of everything that’s wrong with Oregon politics.

Measure 49 is a product of the Oregon legislature. Normally, a bill goes through a number of steps before it becomes law. The most important of these steps is the public hearing process. Public hearings allow the public to explain the impacts of a particular bill to their elected representatives.

When the legislature proposes a dramatic change to the law, the need for public hearings becomes even more critical. And the one thing that opponents and proponents of Measure 49 agree on is that it makes dramatic changes to Oregon law.

So you would think that the legislature would have held public hearings on Measure 49, right?

Wrong. Measure 49 first appeared in the legislature on April 26, 2007. Over the course of 41 days, Measure 49 was amended and approved by a legislative committee, sent to another legislative committee for further amendments, sent to the House floor, approved by the House of Representatives, sent to the Oregon Senate, referred to another legislative committee for even more amendments, re-sent to the Senate floor, approved by the Oregon Senate, sent back to the Oregon House, and re-approved by the Oregon House.

Each time Measure 49 was approved and re-approved, it was done on straight party lines (all Democrats supporting, all Republicans opposing). A bi-partisan compromise this wasn’t.

But what is truly disturbing is that throughout Measure 49’s tortured journey through the Oregon legislature, not one public hearing was held on the Measure. Not one.

No give and take. No public process. No opportunity for the public to testify, and no requirement that the legislature listen to those whom they were about to irreparably harm. No opportunity for experts to make suggestions or point out drafting errors. In short, pure power politics at its worst.

But the fun was just beginning. Governor Kulongoski had been polling voter acceptance of his attempt to gut Measure 37 and realized that the only way to con voters into voting for Measure 49 was to create a highly misleading ballot title – the first and last thing voters read before voting.

That was a problem for the Governor. To prevent Governors and legislators of whatever party from using ballot titles to mislead voters, Oregon law demands that the public have the right to comment on a ballot title and appeal it to the Oregon Supreme Court if necessary.

The Governor and legislative leaders knew that the public wouldn’t stand for their ballot title, and that the Oregon Supreme Court would likely reject it. So they created an exception to the law – just for themselves. Democrat leaders wrote the ballot title for Measure 49, barred all public comments, and prohibited Oregon Supreme Court review of their handiwork.

All of this secrecy, all of this manipulation, all of this lying and avoiding public participation – and for what? Only about 1.2 percent of Oregon is currently developed. Yes, that’s right. Only 1.2 percent or 730,000 acres of 61 million acres are developed. If every Measure 37 claim is approved (and they won’t be) and if every acre of every Measure 37 claim winds up being developed (and they won’t), the total acreage developed in Oregon will be less than 3 percent. That leaves 97 percent of Oregon as undeveloped open space. When is enough enough?

But this is about government power and those who control that power. And this governor and the legislative leadership have proven that property rights and voter rights be damned in the quest for power.

  • Rob

    Thanks for the article, it’s too bad most of th atomaton voters on the left won’t read it but maybe a few will see the light. They seem to want to give wealthy California transplants the right to asbsorb surrounding properties if he needs it (his statement) rather than allow elderly Oregonians the rights granted them. They love dirt more than the rights granted these hard working people.
    A case in point is an elderly gentleman with the first name of Don who is a dirt poor farmer with minimal retirement who lives outside of Molalla . He legally divided his 160 Acres into 20 Acre parcels when his land was zoned 20 Acres. This was his retirement plan. He paid for surveys, permits, septic approvals, the whole nine yards. Luckily for him he sold one, because shortly afterwords they rezoned him EFU 80 acre min and told him he couldn’t sell the rest because they didn’t have tax lot numbers. They figuratively threw him under the bus. Well, measure 37 came along and he started over again with attorney fees, appraisals, apllicaation fees, etc. Now our liberal government and there minions and mindless atomaton voters want to throw poor old Don under the bus again, and it seems they are enjoying it. If any of you Pro 49rs want to tell me why Don belongs under the bus where you seem to want to throw him tell me here if you have the guts.

  • Starbird

    I have had more hope about the success of the No on 49 side winning lately. Why? Because we aren’t hearing any poll numbers being trumpted. Both sides have paid for polls – neither side is talking, that I know of.
    Here’s a question: what happened to the Portland Business Journal’s Business Pulse survey regarding opinions about Measure 49 that was running last week? When I voted, the tally was 61 percent Yes and 31 percent No. I emailed all my friends to jump in and I saw that a few Republican bloggers did the same. But then the poll disappeared. There is no mention of it in the “past poll results” list that they run either. All they have now is a poll on Measure 50, which is — surprise! — winning. Does anyone here know about this?

  • John Snead

    I must admit enjoying hearing you whine about the ballot title. I was overjoyed to see it, especially since the polls I’ve seen indicate that measure 49 is very likely to pass. I think measure 37 was a horrid idea, and while 49 sadly won’t get rid of it, it will at least prevent corporate greed from ruining the state, and the fact that the wording of the bill was sufficiently truthful that it makes it obvious that the only people who would support it are total greed-heads and corporate shills seems like a very sound decision to me.

  • Rob

    You didn’t tell me why Don is being thrown under the bus, are you telling me this old man is ruining the state with his corporate greed? Most of the claims are being made by older Oregonians who have worked hard all their lives. Why is it that The Left, and I assume you are on the Left because of your rant about corporate greed, wants to mug all these elderly people who have started their M37 claims, who have put their life savings into something that the state told them was legal to do, and then steamroll over them with M49? Is your social agenda so important that you can accept this collateral damage to reach your utpian goal? Collateral damage is just fine here in America as long as it’s not your, right?

  • Jared

    Most of the people FOR Measure 49 are old people who’ve worked hard all their lives too. Measure 37 wants to mug these people and force them out of farming — people whose families have farmed the land for 100 years. Measure 49 would save them from big profiteering lumber companies.

    Last I checked, people building three houses can still make a tidy profit. Steamrolled? puhlleeeze.

    • carol

      Are you saying that the farmers want to farm the forest land? Or do the timber companies have a lien on some farm land?

    • Rob

      Jared, your’e confusing. Explain how big lumber companies are taking this farmland. I gave you a real example of Don getting steamrolled. Now you need to give a real example of a lumber company steamrolling an old farmer and running him out of business, not rhetoric or a made up example but something real. Also tell me how these seven homes on 140 acres are going to ruin the farmland. Most 20 acre small farms are quite productive, as we already have programs in place like greenbelt, timber deferral,etc.

  • Phoebe

    Speaking of ballot titles, I just noticed they are making the ballot title part of their pro-Measure 49 ads. There best selling pooint is their best corruption point.

  • Rob

    I’m with you Phoebe,
    I couldn’t believe it when I heard them say “read your ballot” rather than read the measure. The Ballot should have at least said “most measure 37 claims will not be completed and the land owners (most elderly) may lose 10’s of thousands of dollars. Of course Jared, who is most likely a transpland and most likely owns a large parcel of land in East Clackamas county with a business that would most likely not be permitted under current land use laws, could care less about these citizens or their losses. If I don’t have the right Jared, I apologize, but whichever Jared ,it appears he doesn’t care about their losses, which the counties required them to spend if they were to complete their legal M37 claims.