Voters in Oregon No Longer Fooled by Measure 37

Two years ago, Oregon voters were sold Measure 37 as a property rights issue. The measure, they were told, would close loopholes governments used to regulate homeowners and prevent unnecessary regulation. Backers downplayed other ramifications that are now coming to light, ramifications that other states will face if voters in Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, or Washington approve initiatives modeled after Measure 37.

Since Measure 37 passed, nearly 3,000 claims have been filed for compensation, totaling more than $5 billion. Oregon taxpayers are spending millions of dollars just to process the claims. A new poll indicates that Oregonians, by nearly a 2-1 margin, regret voting for the measure. If elections were held today, 66 percent of well-informed voters would vote against it.

Now, across the country, copycat measures are being advanced, hidden under the guise of proposals to reform eminent domain laws to deal with the Supreme Court's Kelo decision.

In California for example, supporters of the copycat Proposition 90 only speak of "safeguarding private property rights." There is no mention of the high cost of the initiative or the extent to which communities' planning abilities are gutted. Prop 90 redefines "just compensation" and greatly increases the cost of all property acquisitions by state and local agencies for infrastructure projects such as schools, roads, parks, and other public works. And it's not just the California initiative. Arizona, Idaho, Montana and Washington all have similar initiatives on their ballots, all claiming to protect private property while really ensuring the same costly, damaging results now being felt in Oregon. Washington's initiative, in fact, will be even more costly than Oregon's.

Advocates of these measures have been so successful in falsely presenting the true nature of the measures that even some progressives, distracted no doubt by other issues, are being mislead into thinking that these initiatives are either harmless or unlikely to pass.

The true nature of these measures is being hidden by the proponents because they know that what happened in Oregon will happen again. Voters will regret passing the measures and end up paying more than they bargained for. Fortunately, there is still time to stop and learn from Oregon's mistake.

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