Term limits decision threatens initiative rights

Oregonians’ ability to make meaningful changes to their Constitution was further eroded when the Oregon Supreme Court struck down voter-approved term limits January 11 on a technicality. The court cited a newly recognized requirement for separate votes on proposed changes that are not “closely related.” The popular initiative originally applied term limits to both state and federal offices. Apparently the Court failed to see the connection.

This ruling leaves past initiatives open to challenge and severely limits the prospects for future initiatives. Who’s to say what proposed changes are “closely related?” Well, that will be up to the judiciary. And you can bet any initiative that challenges the authority of Oregon’s political elite will contain items that just aren’t close enough.

Many legislators have shown an utter disregard for the will of the people in pursuing this challenge, clearly demonstrating whose interests they truly uphold – their own. The judiciary has likewise shown its true colors. The courts have gained new flexibility in determining which initiatives pass muster, and the judiciary has willingly accepted this new political power.

That’s a shame, because as Cascade adjunct scholar Eric Winters, J.D., points out, the initiative is an effective tool for addressing controversial issues and injecting more accountability into Oregon government. Learn more about what we stand to lose in Winters’ commentary, “In support of direct democracy” and his Policy Perspective, “Initiative under assault.”

Angela Eckhardt is director of Cascade Policy Institute’s Rural Oregon Freedom Project and author of Freedom Fuel: How and Why Biodiesel Policy Should Reflect Freedom.

© 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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