Oregon Supreme Court Gets One Right

Steve BucksteinQuickPoint!

The Oregon Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the constitutionality of Measure 37, the property rights initiative approved by the voters in 2004. It requires government to either compensate landowners for reductions of real property fair market value due to certain land use regulations or modify, remove or not apply such regulations.

Most Oregonians understand the importance of protecting property rights, and they voted to require their government to understand that importance as well. A few dissenters challenged the measure and won in circuit court, but the highest court in our state has now soundly rejected their arguments.

The most interesting claim against Measure 37 was that it violated the legislature’s right to make laws. In rejecting that argument, the Court restated what it had previously determined, that:

“Our constitution, like all other state constitutions, is not to be regarded as a grant of power, but rather a limitation upon the powers of the legislature. The people, in adopting it, committed to the legislature the whole law making power of the state, which they did not expressly or impliedly withhold.”

Oregonians have now withheld from government the power to arbitrarily reduce the value of our property without consequence. The state can still enact land use laws, but if those laws reduce the value of property you owned at the time the law changed, you can demand that the government modify, remove or not apply the regulation, or compensate you for your loss.

Both property rights and the principle of limited government were reinforced with today’s decision.


Steve Buckstein is senior policy analyst at Cascade Policy Institute, a Portland, Oregon based think tank.

© 2006, Cascade Policy Institute. All rights reserved. Permission to reprint in whole or in part is hereby granted, provided the author and Cascade Policy Institute are cited. Contact Cascade at (503) 242-0900 to arrange print or broadcast interviews on this topic. For more topics visit the QuickPoint! archive.

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