Conservative groups have been handed another major victory from the Oregon Supreme Court. On Tuesday morning, February 21, the court upheld Measure 37, the law passed by voters in 2004 that could ultimately undo the state's longstanding progressive land use laws.
In MacPherson v. Department of Administrative Services, the Court reversed Marion County Circuit Court Judge Mary James' previous ruling that M37 is unconstitutional.
The Court, in a unanimous decision, rejected James' findings, as well as a number of others made by the plaintiffs—a group led by land use activists 1,000 Friends of Oregon. The Supreme Court also rejected 1,000 Friends' argument that M37 violates the federal constitution's due process protections.
Opponents of the statute fear what will happen to the state's land use laws. Regulation could be potentially rendered unenforceable if landowners start claiming loss of value to their property. And if governments are unable to pay out, the powerful planning that keeps Oregon from being overrun with strip malls and tract homes could be no more.
"Measure 37 still allows unfair waivers that will be popping up near you," says 1,000 Friends' Elon Hasson. The group will be pushing for legislative changes in the next lawmaking session to provide compensation funding so that claims won't necessarily all end in waivers of regulations.
As pointed out by 1,000 Friends, the court didn't rule on whether M37 is a good policy for the state.
"Whether Measure 37, as a policy choice, is wise or foolish, farsighted, or blind, is beyond this court's purview," Chief Justice Paul De Muniz wrote. "Our only function in any case involving a constitutional challenge to an initiative measure is to ensure that the measure does not contravene any pertinent, applicable constitutional provisions."