The Oregon Secretary of State's office announced this week that an initiative meant to repeal the state's so-called "sanctuary" law has enough signatures to qualify for the November 6 ballot. The controversial measure, aptly named "Stop Oregon Sanctuaries," would roll back Oregon's 31-year-old law that prevents state and local governments from enforcing federal immigration laws. It's backed by two anti-immigrant organizations identified as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center. The measure's opponents, including Oregon civil rights groups and major corporations, have already kicked off what will likely be an exhaustive fight to protect Oregon's immigrant community.
This initiative is one of four statewide measures that have jumped through the hurdles needed to qualify for the Nov. ballot. There's one initiative, however, that's still waiting for a green light from the state to make it onto that ballot—and it could be just as contentious as the sanctuary measure.
The pending initiative would ban public funds from being used to cover abortions, effectively blocking all state employees and people insured by the Oregon Health Plan from accessing an abortion. For Oregon, the only state without its own restrictions to abortion access, the possibility of this measure even getting onto a statewide ballot sets off alarms for reproductive rights advocates (and Oregon women in general). We'll know if this measure qualifies no later than the first week of August.
In the meantime, here's a quick rundown on the three other ballot measures you'll be voting on this fall:
Allow Municipal Bonds for Affordable Housing Amendment
This resolution would tweak the Oregon Constitution to allow cities and counties to use voter-approved bond money to fund affordable housing projects that mix public and private organizations. In most cases, those private organizations are far more experienced with creating supportive affordable housing—like Transition Projects or Central City Concern. This constitutional update would allow both the Portland Housing Bond and Metro Housing Bond (which will also seek voter approval in Nov.) to hundreds more affordable housing units for low-income Oregonians.
Ban Tax on Groceries Initiative
Oregon's revered lack of sales tax applies, unsurprisingly, to items purchased at a grocery store. However, local governments are granted the power to impose taxes on groceries. It's an option Oregon's top grocery chains don't want to risk. This initiative would prevent those smaller jurisdictions from taxing groceries. By doing so, it would also prevent local governments from taxing sugary drinks like soda—a fight that's been long-brewing in Multnomah County .
Definition of Raising Revenue for Three-Fifths Vote Requirement Initiative
This initiative would amend a piece of the Oregon Constitution to make it harder for state politicians to decrease current tax breaks and increase taxes, both mechanisms used to raise state revenue. Currently, any new state tax must be approved by three-fifths of the state legislature. This amendment would expand this rule to apply to any adjustments to current state taxes. The initiative is largely bankrolled by realtor and development associations hoping to dodge unexpected tax hikes.