JWA Blog

What We Need to Know About Measures 86 & 87

Sunday, September 14, 2014


I have had wonderful feedback from the first blogs I have posted.  In an effort to help you better understand the ballot measures that we all will be voting on in the November General Election, I have done some research and will make an effort to bring you a simple (if that is even possible!) explanation of what they are. If they are available, even a sample of what both sides of the argument are saying. After that, it is up to you to decide how you want to vote on them. You may even benefit from more research on your own. Remember, the voter’s pamphlet will be a great resource for you to use when it comes out in October.

This time, I will be looking at the first two measures, Ballot Measures 86 & 87. Measure 86 is fairly complicated, while measure 87 is straightforward and relatively simple.

Ballot measure 86 was crafted by Oregon state treasurer Ted Wheeler and would allow the state to exceed its current debt limits to sell bonds and create an endowment that could be used to provide financial aid for Oregon students to pursue higher education or career training. It’s referred to as the “Oregon Opportunity Initiative”. The ballot title reads: Amends Constitution: Requires creation of fund for Oregonians pursuing post-secondary education, authorizes state indebtedness to finance fund.

Arguments in favor of passage:

Students who are enrolled in Oregon’s universities and community colleges are seeing fees go up disproportionately in comparison to the rest of the country. As tuition and fees increase, opportunities for a post- secondary education will become increasingly limited. Oregon’s per capita income is already lower than other states. Without this constitutional amendment, more people could miss out on the higher earning potential. Students who are going to attend universities or community college will have even higher debt loads to pay back after they graduate.

Arguments in opposition:

The state’s debt load due to more bonds being issued would surge. The interest cost to the state would be relatively expensive. Federal government sponsored student loans are becoming deferrable and even forgiven in some instances. If the investments the Student Opportunity Fund don’t perform well, the taxpayers will be stuck with the bill. Other options may be considered by the legislature, such as Pay Forward, Pay Back. Now is not the time for another constitutional amendment that could cost all Oregon taxpayers more in the long run.

Ballot Measure 87 is relatively simple compared to BM 86. This ballot measure would allow judges to teach at Oregon public universities and also allow them to serve in the Oregon National Guard if they choose.  As it stands now, the Oregon Constitution prohibits judges from doing either one of those jobs. Here is what the Salem Statesman Journal said about the bill, “UNDER-THE-RADAR BALLOT MEASURE".

Oregon's constitution says a single person can't hold a position in more than one branch of government. The governor can't be a legislator. The Senate president can't sit on the Supreme Court.

These separation of powers requirements, however, have led to some interesting consequences. Judges can teach at the private Willamette University law school, but not the University of Oregon law school, which is an arm of the executive branch. They can't serve for pay in the National Guard.

Measure 87 would ease up on the separation of powers, allowing state judges to serve in the Guard or teach at a public university.

The measure was put on the ballot by state lawmakers, not signature-collecting petitioners, and it's received very little publicity.”

There are two kinds of ballot measures that you will be voting on; Constitutional measures and statutory measures. When a constitutional measure becomes law it is locked the issue into the Oregon constitution. That is to say, the only changes that can be made to a constitutional law is by a vote of the people in a scheduled election. A statutory measure can be changed by the legislature. Quite often there are unintentional consequences in legislation or ballot measures. Keep in mind that once a law is put into the constitution, the law is very difficult to change if needed.




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