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Protect everyone’s basic (property) rights

John A. Charles, Jr.QuickPoint!

Last week the Oregon Supreme Court invalidated ballot Measure 7, which voters passed in November 2000. Had it been enacted, Measure 7 would have helped constrain local governments’ zoning powers by requiring them to compensate land owners in certain cases where regulations caused a loss of property value.

Though the Supreme Court’s ruling is disappointing, the authors of Measure 7 have only themselves to blame. In reaching its decision the Court found the measure to violate the Oregon Constitution’s so-called “single subject” provision, which requires ballot initiatives to focus on a single subject. The initiative may have been upheld had its authors concentrated on protecting everyone’s property rights.

Trying to appease social conservatives, Measure 7 included an exemption from the compensation requirement. That exemption would’ve kicked in where government regulation prohibited “the use of a property for the purpose of selling pornography, performing nude dancing, selling alcoholic beverages or other controlled substances, or operating a casino or gaming parlor.” In other words, only some property uses were deemed worthy of protection.

Pornography is an expression of free speech, as the Oregon Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld. By attempting to limit the property rights of pornographers, the authors of Measure 7 seemingly turned the initiative into both a property rights issue and a free speech issue. The Court found these two subjects unrelated and it disqualified the measure.

Fortunately, Oregonians in Action, a property rights group, promises to put a similar initiative before voters in 2004. Hopefully they’ll learn from the mistake of others and draft a measure that protects the property rights of all Oregonians-even those who engage in lawful activities that some people may not approve of.

John A. Charles, Jr. is president and CEO 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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