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Election 2014: Oregon Ballot Roundup

Tuesday, September 02, 2014


GMO Labeling

msdonnalee via Compfight cc

From legal marijuana to labeling genetically modified foods, Oregonians will decide on some big ballot measures come November. Since vote by mail lets you start to decide as early as Oct. 15, there's no time like the present to get up to speed on the major statewide choices.

Legal Weed: Oregonians will once again be asked if they want to legalize recreational marijuana, an idea voters rejected in 2012. Advocates argue this time around is different. Oregon would follow Washington and Colorado, the first states to legalize recreational weed in 2012. Medical marijuana has been legal since 1998 and the drug has been largely decriminalized. 

The Control, Regulation, and Taxation of Marijuana and Industrial Hemp Act legalizes possession of marijuana for adults 21 and older while licensing, regulating and taxing the drug.  

New Approach Oregon, advocates of legal weed, have raised nearly $1 million so far, much of it coming from out-of-state backers. And campaign officials say they plan to spend $2.3 million in TV ads in the coming months. 

GMO Labeling: The national food fight over genetically modified crops is hitting the ground in Oregon. Proponents have already collected more than $1 million in anticipation of an expensive battle with opponents, according to Oregon Secretary of State records. The Oregon Right to Know initiative requires that all raw and packaged food produced using genetic engineering must be labeled accordingly. Manufacturers will be responsible for labeling packaged foods while suppliers and retailers will be in charge of raw foods.  

Though statewide GMO labeling campaigns have failed in Washington, Oregon and California in the past, proponents point to a recent victory in Jackson County Ore., where voters decided in May to ban genetically modified foods, as a sign public opinion may be turning. 

The money is already flowing in this food fight, with about $1.4 million raised on the proponents’ side and more than $300,000 raised by opponents, including $82,000 from agriculture giant Monsanto Company. 

Oregon Opportunity Initiative: Referred by the legislature, the measure was prompted by Treasurer Ted Wheeler. It sets up a scholarship fund for college students who need financial aid. It would be funded through the state issuing debt and paying for it with returns on investments. The initiative got the backing of the City Club of Portland. Opponents, however, argue it’s a mistake for the state to take on more debt.

Driver Card Referendum: Opponents of a law passed in the 2013 Oregon Legislature that granted driver cards to residents who don’t have proof of legal citizenship have referred the law to the voters. The law was put on hold, and Oregonians will decide in November if they want to allow driver cards for undocumented immigrants. A group pushing for the measure has formed and is promoting the driver cards as a way to make Oregon roads safer. 

Equal Rights for Women Constitutional Amendment: This constitutional amendment would solidify equal rights, regardless of sex, in the state constitution. Opponents argue the constitution already prohibits discrimination of any kind and that an amendment could have unintended consequences. City Club of Portland's researchers recommended a no vote on the equal rights amendment. 

“Voters should amend our state’s fundamental legal document only when there is a need for a substantive change to the law, not for symbolic value,” Research Committee Chair Des Culpitt said in a press release. 

But despite the no recommendation, more than two thirds of the club's membership voted to support the measure, so it will get a statement of support in the voters' pamphlet. 

Top Two Primary: Oregonians will decide in November on the so-called top-two primary initiative. Primaries are normally closed to all but party voters, who then select which candidate will run in the general election.

In recent years, critics have said, primaries tend to only draw extremist voters who elect polarizing candidates .

The proposed measure would create a new general election and runoff system. Instead of a party primary, all voters would vote on any candidate in the field. The top two candidates from that election would then go to a runoff. Backers say the system would result in the election of more moderate politicians. Opponents say it could limit choice and lead to one-party dominance in government.

Judges’ Power: A clause in the Oregon Constitution that is intended to separate powers of the state’s leaders, prohibiting them from serving on more than one branch, has also had an unintended consequence: It doesn’t allow judges to serve at public universities or get paid for military service. So the Oregon Legislature has referred a measure to clean up the language and allow judges to serve as university teachers and in the National Guard. 

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