Several hot-button issues likely on ballots in 2014

By Lauren Dake The Bulletin Published Jan 1, 2014 at 12:01AM

In less than a year, Oregon voters could legalize same-sex marriages and recreational marijuana.

“There’s been a big sea change on both those issues in the last five years,” said Phil Keisling, a former secretary of state, now at Portland State University running the Center for Public Service at the Hatfield School of Government. “I’ve seen it in national and state polls; there is a very good chance we will do both. We are now lagging many other states that have done it at the ballot box.”

Those are two of several hot-button issues voters could have an opportunity to weigh in on in the November 2014 ballot. There’s also momentum to privatize the state’s liquor sales and give public employees the ability to not pay union dues, the so-called “right to work” initiative.

“Booze, pot, marriage, those are all issues that hit pretty close to the bone for a lot of people on either side,” Keisling said.

Only one measure, however, has qualified for the ballot.

Voters will decide whether to give Oregonians unable to prove they are in the country legally the ability to obtain a “driver’s card.”

The Legislature recently approved a measure granting those unable to prove their residency the chance to drive legally, but opponents quickly gathered enough signatures to refer the measure to the ballot.

In addition, Gov. John Kitzhaber is making a run for an unprecedented fourth term as governor and local Rep. Jason Conger, R-Bend, along with a handful of other candidates, hopes to unseat Democratic U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley.

Proponents pushing a measure have until July to gather enough valid signatures.

“The positive is in terms of civic involvement and engagement, I think 2014, even though a non-presidential year, could be very high turnout … especially for younger voters, who traditionally sit out a mid-term election if the president is not on the ballot,” Keisling said.

More than one initiative would increase taxes on high earners and corporations. Another would require the labeling of genetically modified foods.

But there is still a long way for the measures to go before they qualify for the ballot.

“There is, inevitably, money behind marijuana and same-sex marriage,” Pacific University political scientist Jim Moore said.

But the other measures don’t have “any giant money behind them” yet.

— Reporter: 541-554-1162, ldake@bendbulletin.com