Issues before voters range from eminent domain to abortion notification

Oregon voters will see 10 statewide measures on their ballots in the Nov. 7 election.

Following is a brief summary of each measure along with some of the arguments that have been offered for and against each proposition.

Measure 39 – Restricts

use of eminent domain

The U.S. Constitution allows governments to force landowners to sell their land to the government in cases where that land is needed for a public purpose, such as a road, a park or a school. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in June 2005 that a government could also force landowners to sell land that it would then sell to developers to bring economic growth to a community. The government is required to pay a fair market price for the land, but if the two parties cannot agree on a price, a court is authorized to make the decision.

Measure 39 would prohibit government from forcing the sale of land for purposes of economic growth and would bar the resale of land taken by eminent domain to another party.

Argument for: Government should not be able to force a property owner to sell land that the government would then sell to another party.

Argument against: Government should be able to force a person to sell his or her property if a new owner would develop it in a way that would bring prosperity (and tax money) to the community.

Measure 40 – Elect Oregon

Supreme Court judges by district instead of statewide

Currently, state appellate court judges are elected statewide. State lawmakers are responsible for deciding how many Court of Appeals judges there are.

This constitutional amendment would require that there always be seven Supreme Court judges and 10 Court of Appeals judges. Also it would require that Supreme Court judges would be elected, one from each of seven districts throughout the state. The state would be divided into five Court of Appeals districts and two judges from each district would be elected by voters. The measure would also require that judges live in the district for at least a year before they are elected and maintain their residence there while in office.

Argument for: This measure would ensure that all areas of the state are represented in the appellate courts, thus making judges responsible to the people of their district.

Argument against: Voters should be able to vote for judges based on their experience and education, not where they live. Measure 40 would remove those choices in favor of where the judge lives.

Measure 41 – Oregon

Family Tax Cut

Oregon taxpayers now can claim a personal exemption tax credit on their state tax returns, which was $154 for 2005. A tax credit is a dollar-for-dollar decrease in the amount of taxes owed. For instance, a taxpayer who owed $254 in state taxes would pay only $100 after taking the personal exemption credit. Usually, a taxpayer also gets a credit for their spouse and each dependent.

Measure 41 would give taxpayers the choice of using the current exemption tax credit, as they do now, on their state returns, or using an exemption deduction equal to the amount deducted on their federal taxes. To determine taxable income for federal personal income tax, taxpayers generally may claim a deduction ($3,100 maximum in 2004) that is subtracted from their total income before taxes to determine the amount on which they will be taxed. They can generally do this for themselves, their spouse and each dependent. It is estimated that Ballot Measure 41 would reduce the amount of state tax paid by most middle class families by about $300, though some would pay more in federal tax.

The non-partisan Legislative Fiscal Office estimates that this measure would result in a decrease of revenue for 2007-2009 by as much as $800 million, causing proportionate cuts to all public services, including cuts to K-12 of more than $300 million. Human services, police and prisons and higher education would also receive substantial reductions in revenue.

The measure is statutory (as opposed to an amendment to the Oregon Constitution), which means it could be modified, suspended or delayed by the Legislature. However, any such action would be considered a revenue-raising measure and would require a three-fifths majority vote of both chambers.

Argument for: This measure would give most Oregon families a savings of several hundred dollars on their state taxes, which would help middle-class families.

Argument against: This measure would punish lower-income people by cutting funding for services such as schools, health care and public safety. It would end up costing people more because of the hidden costs of replacing those services and because of the increased federal taxes some would pay.

Measure 42 – Bans use of credit reports in determining insurance premiums

Insurance companies can use credit scores or credit histories to help determine how much to charge a new customer, though the law prohibits them from using credit scores to increase premiums for existing customers or canceling an insurance policy.

Measure 42 would stop insurers from using credit scores or history to determine how much to charge people for a new insurance policy for their vehicle or residence.

Argument for: People with bad credit ratings are often charged more for insurance, even if their bad credit has nothing to do with their lifestyle and money management, such as having too much credit. A low credit score is not necessarily an indication that a person is a greater insurance risk.

Argument against: Sixty to 70 percent of Oregonians have good credit scores, which means they pay less for insurance. If credit scores cannot be used as a factor for determining premiums for new insurance applicants, Oregonians with good credit histories could wind up paying more to make up for people with bad credit.

Measure 43 – Parental notification for teen abortions

Oregon law says that anyone 15 years or older can make their own decisions about medical treatment, including an abortion. Anyone under 15 must have the permission of a parent or guardian. State law lets doctors decide whether to notify a parent of a patient who is 15 to 17 years old. Doctors do not have to tell and can make a decision in each individual case.

Measure 43 would require a doctor to send a certified letter to parents or guardians of a girl 15 to 17, telling them about the planned abortion. The letter must be sent at least 48 hours before the abortion. Failure to comply could result in the doctor losing his medical license and could make him subject to a lawsuit. In cases where the girl does not want her parents told, she will be required to explain her position to a judge, who would then decide.

Argument for: Parents should know if their daughter is about to have a major medical procedure, including an abortion. This measure gives girls from abusive situations the chance to go before a judge to stop parents from being told.

Argument against: Girls who are scared and in trouble may not go before a judge and could opt for illegal and unsafe abortions. The girl and her doctor should decide whether to tell her parents. The government should not make that decision.

Measure 44 – Extends discount prescription drug program to all Oregon citizens

The Oregon Prescription Drug Program cuts deals with drug manufacturers to get lower-priced prescription drugs for low-income Oregonians over age 54. Measure 44 would expand the program to allow all Oregonians without medical insurance to get lower-cost prescription drugs.

Argument for: In just over a year, with only 4,000 Oregonians in the program, the Oregon Prescription Drug Program has saved people an average of $26 per prescription. With the program expanded to cover up to 780,000 Oregonians, even lower prices of prescriptions may be negotiated.

Argument against: Many drug companies have programs to provide free drugs for the needy. Current pricing of drugs allows drug companies to continue research and development of new drugs.

Measure 45 – Limits terms of service for Oregon Legislature

Existing law does not limit the number of years or terms that a person may serve in the Oregon legislature. This proposed constitutional amendment would limit members of the House of Representatives to three two-year terms, and state Senators to two four-year terms and no more than a total of 14 years of service in the state Legislature. The limit would include all years of legislative service before measure’s effective date, but legislators duly elected on or before January 1, 2007, would be allowed to complete their terms of office.

Argument for: Term limits would get rid of career politicians and bring new blood into the Legislature.

Argument against: Term limits take choices away from voters, who can already decide whom they want in the Legislature. Also, it would lead to short-term agendas and short-sighted planning by legislators who would tend to be much less experienced at lawmaking since they would have to step down right about the time they started to develop their knowledge and skills in the Legislature.

If Measure 45 passes, 12 of the 15 state senators and almost half of the House of Representatives up for election in 2008 would be barred from running for that. All legislators serving a term beginning January 1, 2007, whose service would exceed the proposed limits, would be allowed to serve their terms but be barred from running again.

In the 2009 Legislative Assembly, 40 out of 90 legislators would be new and by 2011, nearly all current legislators would be out of office as a result of term limits.

Measure 46 – Constitutional amendment to allow limits in campaign financing

Oregon currently has no limits on how much money individuals or groups can contribute to candidates. When a law was passed to set a limit, the state Supreme Court ruled that laws to limit how much money could be given to candidates went against free speech guarantees in the state Constitution.

Measure 46 would change the Constitution to allow other laws, such as Measure 47, which is also on the ballot, to limit how much money can be given to candidates. Measure 46 also says that three-fourths of the state Legislature would have to approve any change in laws governing donations to candidates. Usually, only a majority of votes is needed.

Argument for: Since Oregon has no limits on how much money can be donated to candidates, some people who give a lot of money may get special favors from politicians.

Argument against: Changing the free speech provisions in the state Constitution, which has been unchanged since 1859, could reduce the rights of Oregonians and cause other problems.

Measure 47 – Limits donations to candidates for certain state offices

As explained above, Oregon does not limit contributions to political candidates and groups or individuals can give as much as they want. Candidates are also not limited in how much of their own money they can use in their campaigns. Measure 47 would limit how much money individuals or groups can donate to candidates for governor, the State Senate, the State House, county commissions and mayor. It would not apply to candidates for U.S. Congress.

Argument for: Measure 47 would take big money out of politics and let regular people have more say.

Argument against: Measure 47 goes too far and may make it harder for people to support the candidates and issues they care about.

Measure 48 – Constitutional amendment creating

spending cap/rainy day fund

Oregon law currently limits how much money the state can spend to 8 percent of the projected income earned by Oregon residents (with certain exceptions). The state has never spent as much as this limit. Oregon also has a “kicker” law that makes the state give money back to taxpayers when it collects more money than it projected.

Measure 48 would institute a population-plus-inflation constitutional spending cap on most services funded by the state General Fund. It would not reduce the amount of money the state collects in taxes, but if the state collects more money than it could spend under the new limit, it would either keep the money or return it to taxpayers.

Argument for: The amount the state government spends has grown too fast. Measure 48 would slow this growth and force the government not to waste money.

Argument against: Such a stringent limit would have sweeping impact on public services such as schools and other important public services, including police.