YOU'D BETTER START working out: The ballot that's slated to hit your mailbox this fall is so heavy with nutty ballot measures, you might pull a muscle just picking it up.
From a measure that would nuke kids' bilingual education, to two measures competing to see how the state can put more people in prison—plus a slate of snoozy housekeeping measures from the legislature—you'll have a lot of decisions to make. Proponents and opponents on both sides of each measure are already battling it out on doorsteps and airwaves to win your vote. Here's a primer on what they're arguing over, so you can cut through the bull and make up your own mind (or, you can just vote how we'll tell you to, in our upcoming endorsements).
MEASURE 54—The legislature referred this measure, which clears up a legal snafu that barred 18-year-olds from voting in school board races.
MEASURE 55—Another housekeeping measure referred by the legislature, this one will let a lawmaker finish his or her term if redistricting boots their home into a new district.
MEASURE 56—Here's where things start to get interesting: This measure, another from the state legislature, does away with the "double majority" requirement for property tax votes. If it passes, a property tax increase could pass in the future even if only, say, 30 percent of voters cast a ballot, but the majority of those voters are for the increase (hint: it'll make it easier to increase funding for things like schools and libraries).
MEASURE 57—In an attempted end-run around Measure 61—a draconian and expensive Kevin Mannix measure that creates mandatory minimum three-year sentences for first-time offenders on some drug and property crimes—legislators referred this measure. The legislature's version gives judges discretion, but also increases prison time for repeat offenders. Unlike M61, this one includes funding for drug treatment.
MEASURE 58—Perennial initiative wingnut Bill Sizemore has five measures on this year's ballot. This xenophobic measure screws over kids who don't speak English as their first language, taking them out of ESL (English as a Second Language) classes after just one to two years, and plunking them into English-only classes. There, they'll likely fall behind in both language and subjects taught in English, like math and science.
MEASURE 59—Here's Sizemore's giveaway to the richest Oregonians: Right now, Oregon taxpayers can deduct $5,600 in federal taxes they've paid from their state taxes. This measure makes that deduction unlimited, which would suck $360 million from the state budget in the first year, a billion in the second, and $1.2 the year after that. Most of that stays in the pockets of the richest one percent of Oregonians.
MEASURE 60—Another Sizemore measure, this one creates a merit-pay system for public school teachers, instead of paying teachers based on seniority, qualifications, experience, and post-graduate degrees. In other words, teachers in districts where students do well—though the measure doesn't define "classroom performance"—will get raises, while dedicated teachers in districts where students aren't doing as well (arguably, the places you most need well-paid teachers) won't be paid as well.
MEASURE 61—This measure from former state Republican Party chair and law-and-order fiend Mannix creates mandatory minimum sentences for things like first-time drug convictions or identity theft. Those sentences will be served in state prisons and "work camps," and the offenders "may not have the sentence reduced for any reason." So long, judicial discretion!
The measure's financial impact statement indicates the measure will require the state to borrow up to $1.3 billion in the next decade to build new prisons. It'll also cost up to $274 million a year by the fifth year it's implemented—but it doesn't provide a new revenue stream.
MEASURE 62—Another Mannix measure, this one amends the constitution to divert lottery proceeds away from the State School Fund, toward crime prevention, investigation, and prosecution. In other words, lottery funds will build a fancy CSI-style crime lab, instead of flowing into classrooms.
MEASURE 63—Speaking of public safety, this Sizemore measure is a doozy: If it passes, you'll be able to do electrical, structural, or other technical work on your house without getting a permit, if the work costs less than $35,000! Hey, that seems safe.
MEASURE 64—The last of the Sizemore measures (for this year, at least) would give the initiative guru a leg up in future years if it passes. The measure would prohibit payroll deductions from public employees that go toward political groups—i.e., the kind of groups that fight Sizemore's measure (and, uh, unions).
MEASURE 65—Expect plenty of debate on this measure, which would dramatically change the way Oregon votes for candidates in primary elections. Instead of declaring your party affiliation and choosing a Democrat, Republican, or third-party candidate in the primary election, it'll be a free-for-all. The top two vote-getters—even if they're in the same party—will advance to the general election.