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Hot topics: Oregon’s top 6 measures that could heat up 2014

By   /   December 24, 2013  /   No Comments

CROWDED BALLOT: Oregon is poised to be a battle ground for nationally contentious issues in 2014.

CROWDED BALLOT: Oregon is poised to be a battle ground for nationally contentious issues in 2014.

By Shelby Sebens | Northwest Watchdog

Legal weed, gay marriage, immigration and labeling genetically modified foods. Oregon would be hard pressed to find a more contentious 2014 ballot.

Oregonians have until July to collect signatures for initiatives they want placed on the 2014 ballot, but the election already looks to be stacked with high profile measures that are sure to put the Beaver State in the national spotlight.

“There’s still a lot that could change,” Brittany Clingen, ballot measures project director for Ballotpedia, told Northwest Watchdog. Ballotpedia is a nonprofit, non-partisan encyclopedia of state, local and federal politics and elections.

Given the national spotlight on the potential measures, it’s likely proponents will get their signatures, she said. Clingen said Ballotpedia is in the the process of updating the ballot measure information.

Immigration: This one’s already set for the ballot. Advocates seek a public vote on a law passed in the last session that  gives “driver privilege cards” to those who don’t have the documents required to get a driver’s license. The driver’s card would be restricted from being used for identification or voting.

Same-sex marriage: Oregon joins at least eight other states that will have gay marriage on the ballot in 2014. Those eight states are already certified, with measures to legalize or ban gay marriage. The Oregon measure, which collected the needed signatures to make the ballot earlier this month, would repeal a state constitutional amendment passed in 2004 that banned same-sex marriage. The initiative, called the Oregon Freedom to Marry and Religious Protection Initiative, would also protect religious institutions from being forced to perform same-sex weddings, Clingen said.

The Oregon Family Council has also filed an initiative that would protect businesses that refuse customers based on sexual orientation. The initiative comes as a response to Oregon going after a bakery that refused to  make a cake for a lesbian couple’s wedding.

Legal weed: Proponents of legal recreational marijuana are hoping the Oregon Legislature will send a legal weed measure to the ballot in 2014, but if not, they plan to collect the signatures. Oregon could follow Washington and Colorado, the first two states to legalize the drug for recreational purposes.

GMOs: Measures to label genetically modified foods have now failed in California and Washington. Oregon is up next and proponents might try a measure based on the ones that have already failed, Clingen said. Requiring foods with genetically modified ingredients to be labeled as such met with serious contention and is expected to be a national fight despite the early losses. Spending on both sides of the measures totaled a record $31 million in Washington.

“I’m sure if the Oregon one gets on the ballot that will be very expensive,” Clingen said.

Proponents have a possible alternative ballot measure that seeks to address some of the points brought up by the opposition in Washington, such as exceptions for certain foods.

“Oregon is cognizant of that,” Clingen said.

Jackson County voters will also take up GMOs in the only ballot measure that looks to ban the crops. The Legislature put the kibosh on letting local governments take that up during a special session this year, but Jackson County had already started work on it and was grandfathered in.

Right-to-work:  Oregon could also be the next state to take up the feverish topic of right-to-work laws. The Public Employee Choice Act would allow public workers to opt out of joining unions or paying dues.

Liquor privatization: Grocers in Oregon are pushing for an end to the state-controlled liquor system. Voters could be asked in 2014 whether the state should privatize the system, meaning liquor could be sold in  stores larger than 10,000 square feet,  in addition to beer and wine, which is already sold at grocery stores. The state decided earlier this year to allow liquor stores to sell beer and wine. Oregon would follow Washington, which privatized its alcohol in 2012. Oregon is one of 18 states that controls liquor sales.

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