VOLUNTEERS AND PAID signature gatherers have roamed the streets all spring with petitions for November ballot measures, racing to gather between 82,000 and 110,000 signatures before the deadline on Friday, July 2. This year's crop of citizen-initiated laws could change the way the state regulates gambling, sells marijuana, and spends lottery dollars. The secretary of state will now comb through the signatures to see whether they're valid, but here's a look at the petitions that could become ballot measures this fall.
Petition 13: Mannix's Mandatory Minimums
Kevin Mannix was one of the guys responsible for passing Measure 11—a 1994 mandatory minimum sentencing law—and he's back to the ballot again with a set of mandatory minimum prison sentences for felony sex crimes and drunken driving. The stiff sentences handed down under Measure 11 have doubled Oregon's prison population in the past 15 years. Craig Prins with the state Criminal Justice Commission says that based on past sentencing rates, this measure will mean 500 extra prisoners in Oregon over the next three to four years.
Petition 28: Medical Marijuana Goes Mainstream
Right now, all medical pot in Oregon has to be grown or given away for free. This measure would set up a system of licensed dispensaries for medical marijuana. Though some marijuana advocates back the measure, pot-advocacy group Oregon NORML hasn't taken a position on this one. "I'm not a proponent, unless it's going to legalize marijuana for everyone," says NORML Executive Director Madeline Martinez.
Petition 50: Rethinking Redistricting
Drawing the district boundaries for state legislators is a complicated dance between politicians, political parties, and the Supreme Court. This measure—with heavy backing from conservative activists, business group Associated Oregon Industries, and Nike founder Phil Knight—would leave redistricting to a panel of retired judges chosen by the Supreme Court. Scott Moore of progressive watchdog Our Oregon says this is a bad idea. "It would eliminate vital checks and balances, and politicize Supreme Court elections," says Moore.
Petition 70: Throwing Money to the Birds (and Trees)
In 1998, Oregon voters passed a measure requiring 15 percent of lottery proceeds go toward fish and wildlife habitat restoration. That law is set to expire in 2014, but this year environmentalists decided to try and make it permanent. "When you know how to fix something, why keep it broken?" asks campaign spokeswoman Jessica Moskovitz. Thanks to the lottery funds, state parks spending has jumped from $12 million to $175 million. Critics, including the state teachers' union, say the chunk of change would be better spent on schools and basic services.
Petitions 76 & 77: Cha-Ching! Legalizing a Non-Indian Casino
Lake Oswego entrepreneurs Matt Rossman and Bruce Studer want to build a casino at the old dog track in Wood Village, but Oregon state law forbids casinos unless Native American tribes are running them. So Rossman and Studer, with the help of over $1 million in capital from a Toronto investment firm and other partners, rushed to get signatures to change the law. "This illustrates that if you have enough money, you can qualify for the ballot in a short amount of time," says Janice Thompson with Common Cause Oregon. Opponents include the Warm Springs tribes and the mayors of Gresham, Fairview, and Troutdale.