November ballot likely full of hot-button measures

From legalizing pot to privatizing liquor to same-sex marriages

By Lauren Dake / The Bulletin / @LaurenDake

Published Mar 12, 2014 at 12:01AM

SALEM — Last week, lawmakers packed their bags and headed home, adjourning the 2014 session and leaving a lot of contentious issues unresolved.

For Oregon voters, that means the November ballot will likely include a handful of controversial issues.

Paul Stanford, the man behind a failed 2012 marijuana legalization effort, hoped lawmakers would refer a measure about legalization to voters and alleviate him of the task. A provision floated during the 2014 legislative session would have asked voters whether they wanted to legalize the drug and, if so, given lawmakers the chance to figure out how to regulate the product in 2015.

“We were hopeful the Legislature would move forward,” Stanford said.

Since it failed, Stanford has kept gathering signatures to refer his two measures to voters.

The first would make it a constitutional right to possess the drug.

The second is a statutory measure discussing how the product should be regulated.

Recent polling has shown a shift in public opinion since his legalization effort failed 2012, Stanford said.

“We think the state is ready,” he said.

Also this session, lawmakers floated a measure that would have created a so-called hybrid plan to privatize liquor sales. The measure was intended to head off an initiative effort by the Northwest Grocery Association to end state control over liquor. The hybrid model would have allowed liquor to be sold in the grocery stores while still allowing the state a say over how liquor is sold and distributed. The bill never gained much momentum, and the privatization effort by the grocers association, which follows Washington state’s footsteps, continues to move forward in Oregon.

Although it wasn’t a legislative issue, Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum announced in February that the state would not defend its constitutional ban on same-sex marriages in a lawsuit. That left Oregon United for Marriage with a decision: whether to pursue an initiative or use its resources elsewhere.

Peter Zuckerman, the group’s spokesman, said the group will hold onto its signatures until after the federal judge makes a decision on two lawsuits, which have been consolidated, which have challenged the state’s constitutional amendment defining marriage as between a man and a woman.

“And so we’re focusing right now on a discrimination measure that our opposition is pushing (instead),” he said.

An organization called Friends of Religious Freedom has announced it will pursue a measure that would allow people like bakers, photographers and florists who oppose same-sex marriages to decline to provide services for such weddings.

And finally, during the 2013 legislative session, state lawmakers approved a measure granting people who can’t prove they are legally in the state the ability to obtain a temporary driver’s license. But enough signatures were gathered to place the law on hold until voters weigh in on the issue in November.

The deadline to gather signatures for the November ballot is July 3, so there is still plenty of time to qualify. For constitutional amendments, supporters need 116,284 signatures from registered voters; for statutory changes they need 87,213 signatures, and for a referendum they need 58,142 signatures.

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