Former legislator and frequent initiative author Kevin Mannix and his Salem ballot measure law firm “Common Sense for Oregon” are promoting an initiative for 2016 that styles itself as the “Respect Oregon Voters Act.” The act has two very different aspects: the first might be called the “Full Employment for Election Lawyers and Overtime for Judges Act” and the second could be “Soundbite Politics Act.”
 
The “Full Employment for Election Lawyers and Overtime for Judges Act” portion of the initiative would make county or state election officials very hesitant to strike dubious signatures on initiative and referendum petitions, because every time they strike a signature, that official would be subject to being hailed into circuit court in a kind of “mandamus” proceeding (a top priority proceeding) by either the voter whose signature was challenged, or the chief petitioner for the petition, with the goal being an order requiring that the signature be counted. The courts would be required to hear the challenges over the signatures in time for the challenged petitions to count towards qualifying the petition for the ballot – which means Oregon’s underfunded courts would see a sudden influx of top-priority civil cases every election year.
 
The “Soundbite Politics Act” would create a high-speed bypass for ballot titles by allowing any initiative or referendum of 100 words or fewer to be placed on the ballot verbatim, with no ballot title or summary. This part of the initiative would also define how the voter’s choice would be structured for ballot initiatives: “After an enacting or amendatory clause, and the text of the measure, the ballot shall provide for the voter to vote “Yes” as a vote in favor of adopting the measure, and for the voter to vote “No” as a vote against adopting the measure.” This seems straightforward enough, but it unclear whether this structure would apply to initiatives where the entire petition exceeds 100 words.
 
It is unclear how these two very different topics can be combined in one initiative, given the Oregon Constitution’s requirement that initiatives only address one subject: “A proposed law or amendment to the Constitution shall embrace one subject only and matters properly connected therewith.” The drafters of this proposal seem to want to suggest that challenging possibly defective signatures is not respecting the voters; however, the opposite argument could easily be made, that ensuring that only qualified voters help place measures on the ballot and preventing signature fraud is at least as respectful of voters. And how creating a special process for certain initiatives – those of fewer than 100 words – is respecting the voters is unclear, and bears no obvious connection to adding a costly legal challenge option to petition signature fights.

The People of the State of Oregon adopt the following statute:
 
Section 1.  This Act shall be known as the Respect Oregon Voters Act.  It is the intention of this Act to protect and strengthen Oregon’s long and proud history of encouraging and respecting the participation of the people in the election process.  This Act establishes respect for voters as to their signatures on a petition.  It also provides that the full text of reasonably short ballot measures be presented to voters on the ballot itself, not just in the voters’ pamphlet, so voters can readily see the actual full text.
 
Section 2.  If the Secretary of State or an elections officer disqualifies a voter’s signature from a petition signature count, the voter or a chief petitioner of the petition may bring an action in circuit court to require the counting of the voter’s signature on the petition.
 
Section 3.  In any action under Section 2 of this Act, the secretary or elections officer bears the burden of proving that there is a legal basis for the voter’s signature to be excluded from the count of qualified signatures.  If an issue is whether a signature is the actual signature of the voter, an affidavit from such voter is sufficient to qualify the signature as to this issue.  The courts of this state shall give precedence to an action under this section to the extent necessary to ensure that the secretary or elections officer counts qualified signatures within time limits prescribed by the constitution or by law.
 
Section 4.  If a voter’s signature is selected for verification as part of a signature sample, as authorized by statute, and the selected signature is excluded from the count, but a court orders that the voter’s signature is required to be counted, the voter’s signature shall be re-inserted into the results of the sample.
 
Section 5.  For purposes of this 2016 Act:

  1. “Petition” means an initiative, referendum, candidate nomination, formation of a political party, or recall petition;
  2. “Count” or “Counted” means to include the voter’s signature in the final tally as to whether the petition contains the required number of voter signatures;
  3. “Signature” means a person’s name, or a mark used by a person, to indicate that the person has signed a petition.

 
Section 6.  Except as required by the constitution of this state, laws governing ballot titles for petitions and ballot measures do not apply to petitions and ballot measures by citizen initiative that contain 100 words or fewer of text (excluding the enacting or amendatory clause).
 
Section 7.  Any ballot measure by citizen initiative that contains 100 words or fewer of text (excluding the enacting or amendatory clause) shall have the full text of the measure presented on the ballot immediately after the measure number and the enacting or amendatory clause.  No ballot title shall be used.  After an enacting or amendatory clause, and the text of the measure, the ballot shall provide for the voter to vote “Yes” as a vote in favor of adopting the measure, and for the voter to vote “No” as a vote against adopting the measure.  The full text of the proposed measure shall be printed on any petition sheet instead of any ballot title.
 
Section 8.  This Act is effective January 1, 2017.

Another initiative from the Mannix shop likely to reach the ballot this year ahead is a proposed constitutional amendment styled as “Protect Family Giving from Taxes.” It is yet another salvo in the long-running barrage of efforts to destroy any measures that limit the accumulation of family fortunes. Given the wealthy backers who might favor this initiative, it seems likely to reach the ballot. Then the question will be whether the 99+% of Oregonians who will never pay a dime in estate tax (federal or state) can be convinced to eliminate the last bit of progressive tax policy remaining from Theodore Roosevelt’s campaign to put some limits on vast fortunes that were building up to a hereditary feudal society in The Gilded Age.

PROTECT FAMILY GIVING FROM TAXES
 
The People of the State of Oregon enact the following new Section to be added to Article IX of the Oregon Constitution:
 

  1. No tax shall be imposed on any gift of property from one family member to another member of the same family, no matter whether the gift is made during life, upon death, or after death.

 

  1. “Family member” or “member of the same family” means a relationship by blood, marriage, domestic partnership, adoption, or by other laws recognizing family relationships, between a giver and a recipient, within the third degree of relationship between the giver and the recipient. This includes, by example, but is not limited to, relationships within the range of spouses, domestic partners, great grandparents, grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great uncles, great aunts, uncles, aunts, nephews, nieces, great nephews, great nieces, siblings, and cousins.

 

  1. This Section protects family gifts from gift taxes, income taxes, inheritance taxes, estate taxes, and any other form of state or local taxation.

A Throwback to County Rule

Another proposal to amend the Oregon Constitution from the Mannix shop is called the “Oregon Lottery Local Control Act,” a strange idea indeed. The amendment would make it a matter of constitutional importance that the state give up half the funds that the state raises through the Oregon State Lottery.
 
Instead of the state lottery proceeds going to state needs, as determined by the representatives from across the state, this initiative would create a slush fund for each county, where the county commissioners would apportion the half of the total revenue taken away from the state legislature.

From the share going to Oregon’s 36 counties, 10% (5% of the total state lottery take) would be divided up equally, with the other 90% (45% of total lottery revenue) divided by the counties according to how much of the state’s total lottery revenue was provided by the math-challenged residents in each county. Thus, this proposal reverses the trend of the 20th Century, where court decisions from the civil rights era onward did away with the “county rule” idea that had dominated politics, particularly in the South, and had led to gross distortions in political power. Under County Rule systems, counties, often sparsely populated compared to cities, take a preferred position in governance and taxation policy. Before the “one person, one vote” era, legislators were often elected along county lines, so that voters in densely populated cities had only a fraction of the voting power of their rural cousins. This amendment recalls that era, proposing to reward sparsely populated rural counties for being sparsely populated rural counties.
 
So counties like Malheur and Wheeler may want this badly: Even if there are no lottery tickets sold in those counties all year, they would each be in line for a 5/36th share of the half-share of state lottery take, no questions asked, no strings allowed. A little less than a seventh of a percent does not sound like much – until you realize that the Oregon State Lottery generates about half a billion dollars a year in revenue, so a 5/36th share of half of that revenue is about $35 million. What is unclear is why voters in the populous counties in the Willamette Valley would want to vote to reduce the share of lottery funds that could wind up benefiting themselves. And the next question, should this idea somehow pass, is how long before the Portland metro counties get together and propose a different allocation entirely, one that gives a bonus to the “top producer” counties that generate the vast bulk of the lottery proceeds. The rural counties would be in no position to complain, having themselves established the idea that the distribution of lottery funds is something for counties to fight for.

OREGON LOTTERY LOCAL CONTROL ACT
 
The People of Oregon hereby amend Article XV of the Oregon Constitution by adding the following section to be inserted before Section 5:
 

  1. The People declare that it is desirable for counties to receive a share of State Lottery proceeds so county governments may determine the best use of such funds for public purposes within each county.

 

  1. Effective July 1, 2017, 50% of the net proceeds from the State Lottery shall be deposited in a county revenue distribution fund to be created by the Legislative Assembly.  Earnings on moneys in the county revenue distribution fund shall be retained in the fund and distributed for the public purposes described in this section.  The Legislative Assembly may appropriate other moneys or revenue to the county revenue distribution fund.

 

  1.  The county revenue distribution fund shall be distributed to counties as follows:
  1. Ten percent of the moneys must be allocated and distributed to all counties in an equal amount for each county;  and
  2. Ninety percent of the moneys must be allocated and distributed to all counties in the same proportion for each county as the State Lottery generates gross proceeds from such county.

 

  1. The counties shall use funds received from the county revenue distribution fund for any of the following public purposes: creating jobs; furthering economic development; financing public education; restoring and protecting parks, beaches, watersheds and native fish and wildlife; and providing public safety.

 

  1. Each county may distribute funds to other units of government such as cities, towns, or school districts, operating within the county, provided the funds are used for purposes listed in paragraph (4) of this section.

 

  1. The Legislative Assembly shall enact legislation to implement the distribution of moneys under paragraphs (2) and (3) of this section, but may not establish substantive limitations on the distribution of those moneys or additional restrictions on the use of those moneys.

 

  1. This Amendment is self-executing and shall be effective upon passage.
With the proposed constitutional amendment to send millions of dollars of state lottery money to counties without regard to population, it seems appropriate to revisit the current split of lottery money.

Article XV “Miscellaneous”

  Note: The amendments to sections 4, 4a, 4b and 4c and the repeal of section 4d by Measure No. 76, 2010, as submitted to the people was preceded by a preamble that reads as follows:

      PREAMBLE: The people of the State of Oregon find that renewing the current dedication in the Oregon Constitution of fifteen percent of lottery revenues to parks, water quality and fish and wildlife habitats will provide lasting social, economic, environmental and public health benefits.
      The people of the State of Oregon also find that renewal of the Parks and Natural Resources Fund will support voluntary efforts to:
      (1) Protect and restore water quality, watersheds and habitats for native fish and wildlife that provide a healthy environment for current and future generations of Oregonians;
      (2) Maintain and expand public parks, natural areas and recreation areas to meet the diverse needs of a growing population and to provide opportunities for [sic] to experience nature and enjoy outdoor recreation activities close to home and in the many special places throughout Oregon;
      (3) Provide jobs and economic opportunities improving the health of our forests, prairies, lakes, streams, wetlands, rivers, and parks, including efforts to halt the spread of invasive species;
      (4) Strengthen the audit and reporting requirements, identify desired outcomes and specify allowable uses of the fund in order to provide more strategic, accountable and efficient uses of the Parks and Natural Resources Fund; and
      (5) Enhance the ability of public land managers, private organizations, individuals and businesses to work together in local, regional and statewide partnerships to expand recreation opportunities, improve water quality and conserve fish and wildlife habitat.
 
      Section 4. Regulation of lotteries; state lottery; use of net proceeds from state lottery. (1) Except as provided in subsections (2), (3), (4), (8) and (9) of this section, lotteries and the sale of lottery tickets, for any purpose whatever, are prohibited, and the Legislative Assembly shall prevent the same by penal laws.

      (2) The Legislative Assembly may provide for the establishment, operation, and regulation of raffles and the lottery commonly known as bingo or lotto by charitable, fraternal, or religious organizations. As used in this section, charitable, fraternal or religious organization means such organizations or foundations as defined by law because of their charitable, fraternal, or religious purposes. The regulations shall define eligible organizations or foundations, and may prescribe the frequency of raffles, bingo or lotto, set a maximum monetary limit for prizes and require a statement of the odds on winning a prize. The Legislative Assembly shall vest the regulatory authority in any appropriate state agency.

      (3) There is hereby created the State Lottery Commission which shall establish and operate a State Lottery. All proceeds from the State Lottery, including interest, but excluding costs of administration and payment of prizes, shall be used for any of the following purposes: creating jobs, furthering economic development, financing public education in Oregon or restoring and protecting Oregon’s parks, beaches, watersheds and native fish and wildlife.

      (4)(a) The State Lottery Commission shall be comprised of five members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate who shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor. At least one of the Commissioners shall have a minimum of five years experience in law enforcement and at least one of the Commissioners shall be a certified public accountant. The Commission is empowered to promulgate rules related to the procedures of the Commission and the operation of the State Lottery. Such rules and any statutes enacted to further implement this article shall insure the integrity, security, honesty, and fairness of the Lottery. The Commission shall have such additional powers and duties as may be provided by law.

      (b) The Governor shall appoint a Director subject to confirmation by the Senate who shall serve at the pleasure of the Governor. The Director shall be qualified by training and experience to direct the operations of a state-operated lottery. The Director shall be responsible for managing the affairs of the Commission. The Director may appoint and prescribe the duties of no more than four Assistant Directors as the Director deems necessary. One of the Assistant Directors shall be responsible for a security division to assure security, integrity, honesty, and fairness in the operations and administration of the State Lottery. To fulfill these responsibilities, the Assistant Director for security shall be qualified by training and experience, including at least five years of law enforcement experience, and knowledge and experience in computer security.

      (c) The Director shall implement and operate a State Lottery pursuant to the rules, and under the guidance, of the Commission. The State Lottery may operate any game procedure authorized by the commission, except parimutuel racing, social games, and the games commonly known in Oregon as bingo or lotto, whereby prizes are distributed using any existing or future methods among adult persons who have paid for tickets or shares in that game; provided that, in lottery games utilizing computer terminals or other devices, no coins or currency shall ever be dispensed directly to players from such computer terminals or devices.

      (d) There is hereby created within the General Fund the Oregon State Lottery Fund which is continuously appropriated for the purpose of administering and operating the Commission and the State Lottery. The State Lottery shall operate as a self-supporting revenue-raising agency of state government and no appropriations, loans, or other transfers of state funds shall be made to it. The State Lottery shall pay all prizes and all of its expenses out of the revenues it receives from the sale of tickets or shares to the public and turnover the net proceeds therefrom to a fund to be established by the Legislative Assembly from which the Legislative Assembly shall make appropriations for the benefit of any of the following public purposes: creating jobs, furthering economic development, financing public education in Oregon or restoring and protecting Oregon’s parks, beaches, watersheds and native fish and wildlife. Effective July 1, 1997, 15% of the net proceeds from the State Lottery shall be deposited, from the fund created by the Legislative Assembly under this paragraph, in an education stability fund. Effective July 1, 2003, 18% of the net proceeds from the State Lottery shall be deposited, from the fund created by the Legislative Assembly under this paragraph, in an education stability fund. Earnings on moneys in the education stability fund shall be retained in the fund or expended for the public purpose of financing public education in Oregon as provided by law. Except as provided in subsection (6) of this section, moneys in the education stability fund shall be invested as provided by law and shall not be subject to the limitations of section 6, Article XI of this Constitution. The Legislative Assembly may appropriate other moneys or revenue to the education stability fund. The Legislative Assembly shall appropriate amounts sufficient to pay lottery bonds before appropriating the net proceeds from the State Lottery for any other purpose. At least 84% of the total annual revenues from the sale of all lottery tickets or shares shall be returned to the public in the form of prizes and net revenues benefiting the public purpose.

      (5) Notwithstanding paragraph (d) of subsection (4) of this section, the amount in the education stability fund created under paragraph (d) of subsection (4) of this section may not exceed an amount that is equal to five percent of the amount that was accrued as revenues in the state’s General Fund during the prior biennium. If the amount in the education stability fund exceeds five percent of the amount that was accrued as revenues in the state’s General Fund during the prior biennium:

      (a) Additional net proceeds from the State Lottery may not be deposited in the education stability fund until the amount in the education stability fund is reduced to less than five percent of the amount that was accrued as revenues in the state’s General Fund during the prior biennium; and

      (b) Fifteen percent of the net proceeds from the State Lottery shall be deposited into the school capital matching fund created under section 4, Article XI-P of this Constitution.

      (6) The Legislative Assembly may by law appropriate, allocate or transfer any portion of the principal of the education stability fund created under paragraph (d) of subsection (4) of this section for expenditure on public education if:

      (a) The proposed appropriation, allocation or transfer is approved by three-fifths of the members serving in each house of the Legislative Assembly and the Legislative Assembly finds one of the following:

      (A) That the last quarterly economic and revenue forecast for a biennium indicates that moneys available to the state’s General Fund for the next biennium will be at least three percent less than appropriations from the state’s General Fund for the current biennium;

      (B) That there has been a decline for two or more consecutive quarters in the last 12 months in seasonally adjusted nonfarm payroll employment; or

      (C) That a quarterly economic and revenue forecast projects that revenues in the state’s General Fund in the current biennium will be at least two percent below what the revenues were projected to be in the revenue forecast on which the legislatively adopted budget for the current biennium was based; or

      (b) The proposed appropriation, allocation or transfer is approved by three-fifths of the members serving in each house of the Legislative Assembly and the Governor declares an emergency.

      (7) The Legislative Assembly may by law prescribe the procedures to be used and identify the persons required to make the forecasts described in subsection (6) of this section.

      (8) Effective July 1, 1999, 15% of the net proceeds from the State Lottery shall be deposited in a parks and natural resources fund created by the Legislative Assembly. Of the moneys in the parks and natural resources fund, 50% shall be deposited in a parks subaccount and distributed for the public purposes of financing the protection, repair, operation, and creation of state, regional and local public parks, ocean shore and public beach access areas, historic sites and recreation areas, and 50% shall be deposited in a natural resources subaccount and distributed for the public purposes of financing the restoration and protection of native fish and wildlife, watersheds and water quality in Oregon. The Legislative Assembly shall not limit expenditures from the parks and natural resources fund, or from the parks or natural resources subaccounts. The Legislative Assembly may appropriate other moneys or revenue to the parks and natural resources fund.

      (9) Only one State Lottery operation shall be permitted in the State.

      (10) The Legislative Assembly has no power to authorize, and shall prohibit, casinos from operation in the State of Oregon.

[Constitution of 1859; Amendment proposed by H.J.R. 14, 1975, and adopted by the people Nov. 2, 1976; Amendment proposed by initiative petition filed April 3, 1984, and adopted by the people Nov. 6, 1984 (paragraph designations in subsection (4) were not included in the petition); Amendment proposed by H.J.R. 20, 1985, and adopted by the people Nov. 4, 1986; Amendment proposed by H.J.R. 15, 1995, and adopted by the people May 16, 1995; Amendment proposed by initiative petition filed March 11, 1998, and adopted by the people Nov. 3, 1998; Amendment proposed by H.J.R. 80, 2002 (3rd s.s.), and adopted by the people Sept. 17, 2002; Revision proposed by H.J.R. 13, 2009, and adopted by the people May 18, 2010; Amendment proposed by initiative petition filed Dec. 22, 2009, and adopted by the people Nov. 2, 2010]

The “Clean Economy Initiative” that may reach the ballot in 2016 is an attempt to prevent any new or expanded fossil-fuel infrastructure from being created in Oregon, and it would also define commercial transport containers larger than 50 gallons as infrastructure under the law.

In terms of significance, this initiative would likely have a far greater effect on Oregon’s future than the much-more publicized tax initiatives that will command attention of the corporate press. OregonPEN will follow this initiative’s progress closely in 2016. The one-sentence description and the one paragraph summary below are taken from the Pacific Green Party:

In one sentence: This initiative would prohibit the construction of new fossil fuel infrastructure in the state of Oregon.

This initiative would draw a clear line in the sand and tell the fossil fuel companies “NO MORE!” It is written in a broad and encompassing manner to prevent workarounds and loopholes. Furthermore it would impose fines that would make any violation prohibitively expensive rather than another cost of doing business.

Below is the draft text in full:


Whereas Climate science indicates that carbon dioxide levels contribute to global climate change.

Whereas Climate science indicates that, globally, we are approaching a carbon dioxide concentration threshold crossing which would lead to fundamental and dangerous climate change.

Whereas such climate change is imminent and dangerous both to the future of the human population and the environment.

Whereas the evidence indicates that a drastic and immediate reduction in global carbon dioxide emissions is necessary to avoid said calamity.

Whereas it is acknowledged that the primary source of carbon dioxide emissions are from human activity, especially from the combustion of fossil fuels.

Whereas the people of Oregon hold that the wellbeing and interests of its people are both more important than the economy and the purpose of the economy.

Therefore, the people of Oregon, with the intent of stemming the release of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, prohibit the construction, laying, installation, expansion, or reopening of infrastructure related to the extraction, processing, shipment, transportation, or distribution of fossil fuels.

Definitions

Prohibit: The state shall not authorize said activity and will incur fines equal to twice the projected 5 year revenue for the infrastructure or $20,000 which ever is greatest.

Expansion: Where a facility/premises/infrastructure exists expansion refers to any physical change or modification to that location that would increase its capacity to process, extract, ship, transport, or distribute fossil fuels. Expansion here does not refer to any change or modification that reduces the location’s ability to process, ship, transport, or distribute fossil fuels and changes that would reduce that location’s emissions of carbon dioxide. Expansion also does refer to any change which lowers a location’s emissions of carbon dioxide but also increases its capacity to process, extract, ship, transport, or distribute fossil fuels.

Reopening: Is the resumption of fossil fuel processing, extraction, shipment, transportation, or distribution activity associated with a given facility/ premises/ infrastructure after its closure or disuse for a period greater than 3 months.

Infrastructure: refers to permanent or semi-permanent structures or machinery, fixed or otherwise erected at a given location. Additionally, it also refers to the commercial transport containers exceeding 50 gallons in volume commonly used in the shipment of fossil fuels by train, ship, truck, and plane.

Fossil Fuels: includes petroleum, natural gas, gasoline, kerosene, diesel , coal, and their derivatives.

Exemptions

The construction, laying, installation, expansion, or reopening of infrastructure related to the processing, shipment, transportation, distribution, recycling or reuse of post-consumer waste is exempt from this prohibition.

Transportation: does not refer to the transportation of fossil fuels in an amount less than 50 gallons within a personal automobile.

What Oregon needs more than an end to the mandatory retirement age is something to address the growing role of money in determining who sits on our appellate courts. While Oregon has not yet seen the kinds of campaigns that have marred states such as Michigan, Ohio, and West Virginia, it is likely only a matter of time before corporations notice that Oregon’s total absence of campaign contribution limits makes judicial seats prime investment candidates.
 
In 2010, three candidates for two seats raised and spent just a hair over $100,000; but in 2012, four candidates for two seats (one uncontested, with the other three vying for the remaining seat) raised and spent over $750,000.
 
BALDWIN, RICHARD C       SUPREME COURT      Won
Total Amount Raised:   $430,832

Name       Amount
Agriculture   $250
Communications & Electronics $10550
Energy & Natural Resources  $500
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate  $500
General Business $2000
Health  $450
Government Agencies/Education/Other   $4100
Ideology/Single Issue   $36194
Lawyers & Lobbyists  $176959
Labor $85245
Uncoded  $15325
Unitemized Contributions  $41661
Candidate Contributions  $54045
Non-Contributions $3052

 
COOK, NENA      SUPREME COURT      Lost – General Election

Total Amount Raised:  $253,837
Name   Amount
Agriculture  $1000
Communications & Electronics $250
Energy & Natural Resources $200
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate   $58550
General Business  $5750
Government Agencies/Education/Other $2950
Ideology/Single Issue  $1000
Lawyers & Lobbyists  $53791
Labor $1000
Transportation $200
Uncoded  $10435
Unitemized Contributions $26417
Candidate Contributions $92295
 
SERCOMBE, TIMOTHY J     SUPREME COURT     Lost – Primary Election

Total Amount Raised:  $66,740
Name   Amount
Agriculture    $200
Communications & Electronics    $250
Finance, Insurance & Real Estate   $850
General Business $200
Health  $500
Government Agencies/Education/Other   $1150
Lawyers & Lobbyists   $38298
Uncoded   $6687
Unitemized Contributions $17005
Candidate Contributions  $1600
 
Data from The National Center on State Courts, using data from the National Institute on Money in State Politics.
 
Without public financing of judicial campaigns or a fundamental change away from traditional elections, judicial elections in Oregon are likely to follow the tragic pattern in other states, where only candidates who appeal to the wealthy are able to run credible campaigns, much less prevail.

Coming up in 2016, Oregonians will vote on whether to abolish its current mandatory retirement age of 75 for judges, deciding a referral made by the Legislature during the 2015 regular legislative session.

A mandatory retirement age seems inconsistent with letting the voters elect judges; presumably, the voters are able to determine when to retire a judge remaining too long on the bench. However, the National Center for State Courts points out that, in Oregon, judges are not so much elected as selected, with 85% of Oregon judges elevated to the bench by vote of just one person, the Governor:

The Oregon judiciary consists of a supreme court, a court of appeals, a circuit court, a tax court, and various trial courts of limited jurisdiction. Oregon judges have been chosen in nonpartisan elections since 1931. The governor appoints judges to fill mid-term vacancies on the courts, and the appointee stands for election at the next general election. In recent years, approximately 85% of Oregon judges have first been appointed rather than elected to office, and the vast majority were unopposed in elections to retain their seats.

78th OREGON LEGISLATIVE  ASSEMBLY–2015 Regular Session
 
Enrolled
Senate Joint Resolution 4
Printed pursuant to Senate Interim Rule  213.28 by order of the President of the Senate in conform­ance with presession filing rules, indicating neither advocacy nor opposition on the part of the President (at the request of Secretary of State Kate Brown)


Be It Resolved by the Legislative Assembly of the State of Oregon: 

PARAGRAPH 1. Section la, Article VII (Amended) of the Constitution of the State of Oregon, is amended to read:

Sec. la.  [Notwithstanding  the provisions  of  section  1, Article  VII (Amended) of  this Constitution, a judge of any court shall retire from judicial office at the end of  the calendar year in which he attains the age of  75 years. ]  

The Legislative Assembly  or the people may by law:

[(1) Fix a lesser age for mandatory retirement not earlier than the end of the calendar year in which the judge  attains the age of 70 years;]

[(2)]  (1) Provide for recalling retired judges to temporary active service on the court from which · they are retired;  and

[(3)] (2) Authorize or require the retirement of judges for physical or mental disability or any other cause rendering judges incapable of performing their judicial  duties.

[This section shall not affect  the term to which any judge  shall have been elected or appointed prior to or at the  time of approval  and  ratification  of  this section.]
 

PARAGRAPH 2. The amendment proposed by this resolution shall be submitted to the people for their approval or rejection at the next regular general election held throughout this  state.

 
This proposal to abolish the mandatory retirement age for judges would be fairly significant, given how little changed the system for judicial selection has been since 1910 (moving to statewide elections for the Supreme Court, then the only appeals court) and 1931, when Oregon adopted a nominally nonpartisan system of judicial elections, removing partisan labels from the ballot.
 
In 1976, in the wake of the Watergate scandal and the first presidential resignation in Washington, D.C., Oregonians amended the Constitution to allow the Supreme Court to discipline lower-court judges. Thus, the 2016 proposal to abolish mandatory retirement age follows logically from the change forty years earlier, since it addresses the worry about judges who have diminished capacity but are unwilling to retire. The current Article VII of the Oregon Constitution on the judicial branch:

ARTICLE VII (Amended)
JUDICIAL BRANCH
 
Sec.     1.         Courts; election of judges; term of office; compensation
            1a.       Retirement of judges; recall to temporary active service
            2.         Amendment’s effect on courts, jurisdiction and judicial system; Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction
            2a.       Temporary appointment and assignment of judges
            2b.       Inferior courts may be affected in certain respects by special or local laws
            3.         Jury trial; re-examination of issues by appellate court; record on appeal to Supreme Court; affirmance notwithstanding error; determination of case by Supreme Court
            4.         Supreme Court; terms; statements of decisions of court
            5.         Juries; indictment; information; verdict in civil cases
            6.         Incompetency or malfeasance of public officer
            7.         Oath of office of Judges of Supreme Court
            8.         Removal, suspension or censure of judges
            9.         Juries of less than 12 jurors
     
      Section 1. Courts; election of judges; term of office; compensation. The judicial power of the state shall be vested in one supreme court and in such other courts as may from time to time be created by law. The judges of the supreme and other courts shall be elected by the legal voters of the state or of their respective districts for a term of six years, and shall receive such compensation as may be provided by law, which compensation shall not be diminished during the term for which they are elected. [Created through initiative petition filed July 7, 1910, and adopted by the people Nov. 8, 1910]

      Section 1a. Retirement of judges; recall to temporary active service.
Notwithstanding the provisions of section 1, Article VII (Amended) of this Constitution, a judge of any court shall retire from judicial office at the end of the calendar year in which he attains the age of 75 years. The Legislative Assembly or the people may by law:
      (1) Fix a lesser age for mandatory retirement not earlier than the end of the calendar year in which the judge attains the age of 70 years;
      (2) Provide for recalling retired judges to temporary active service on the court from which they are retired; and
      (3) Authorize or require the retirement of judges for physical or mental disability or any other cause rendering judges incapable of performing their judicial duties.
      This section shall not affect the term to which any judge shall have been elected or appointed prior to or at the time of approval and ratification of this section. [Created through S.J.R. 3, 1959, and adopted by the people Nov. 8, 1960]

      Section 2. Amendment’s effect on courts, jurisdiction and judicial system; Supreme Court’s original jurisdiction. The courts, jurisdiction, and judicial system of Oregon, except so far as expressly changed by this amendment, shall remain as at present constituted until otherwise provided by law. But the supreme court may, in its own discretion, take original jurisdiction in mandamus, quo warranto and habeas corpus proceedings. [Created through initiative petition filed July 7, 1910, and adopted by the people Nov. 8, 1910]

      Section 2a. Temporary appointment and assignment of judges.
The Legislative Assembly or the people may by law empower the Supreme Court to:
      (1) Appoint retired judges of the Supreme Court or judges of courts inferior to the Supreme Court as temporary members of the Supreme Court.
      (2) Appoint members of the bar as judges pro tempore of courts inferior to the Supreme Court.
      (3) Assign judges of courts inferior to the Supreme Court to serve temporarily outside the district for which they were elected.
      A judge or member of the bar so appointed or assigned shall while serving have all the judicial powers and duties of a regularly elected judge of the court to which he is assigned or appointed. [Created through S.J.R. 30, 1957, and adopted by the people Nov. 4, 1958]
      Section 2b. Inferior courts may be affected in certain respects by special or local laws. Notwithstanding the provisions of section 23, Article IV of this Constitution, laws creating courts inferior to the Supreme Court or prescribing and defining the jurisdiction of such courts or the manner in which such jurisdiction may be exercised, may be made applicable:
      (1) To all judicial districts or other subdivisions of this state; or
      (2) To designated classes of judicial districts or other subdivisions; or
      (3) To particular judicial districts or other subdivisions. [Created through S.J.R. 34, 1961, and adopted by the people Nov. 6, 1962]

      Section 3. Jury trial; re-examination of issues by appellate court; record on appeal to Supreme Court; affirmance notwithstanding error; determination of case by Supreme Court. In actions at law, where the value in controversy shall exceed $750, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise re-examined in any court of this state, unless the court can affirmatively say there is no evidence to support the verdict. Until otherwise provided by law, upon appeal of any case to the supreme court, either party may have attached to the bill of exceptions the whole testimony, the instructions of the court to the jury, and any other matter material to the decision of the appeal. If the supreme court shall be of opinion, after consideration of all the matters thus submitted, that the judgment of the court appealed from was such as should have been rendered in the case, such judgment shall be affirmed, notwithstanding any error committed during the trial; or if, in any respect, the judgment appealed from should be changed, and the supreme court shall be of opinion that it can determine what judgment should have been entered in the court below, it shall direct such judgment to be entered in the same manner and with like effect as decrees are now entered in equity cases on appeal to the supreme court. Provided, that nothing in this section shall be construed to authorize the supreme court to find the defendant in a criminal case guilty of an offense for which a greater penalty is provided than that of which the accused was convicted in the lower court. [Created through initiative petition filed July 7, 1910, and adopted by the people Nov. 8, 1910; Amendment proposed by H.J.R. 71, 1973, and adopted by the people Nov. 5, 1974; Amendment proposed by H.J.R. 47, 1995, and adopted by the people May 21, 1996]
 
      Section 4. Supreme Court; terms; statements of decisions of court. The terms of the supreme court shall be appointed by law; but there shall be one term at the seat of government annually. At the close of each term the judges shall file with the secretary of state concise written statements of the decisions made at that term. [Created through initiative petition filed July 7, 1910, and adopted by the people Nov. 8, 1910]

      Section 5. Juries; indictment; information.
[Created through initiative petition filed July 7, 1910, and adopted by the people Nov. 8, 1910; Amendment proposed by S.J.R. 23, 1957, and adopted by the people Nov. 4, 1958; Repeal proposed by S.J.R. 1, 1973, and adopted by the people Nov. 5, 1974 (present section 5 of this Article adopted in lieu of this section)]

      Section 5. Juries; indictment; information; verdict in civil cases.
(1) The Legislative Assembly shall provide by law for:
      (a) Selecting juries and qualifications of jurors;
      (b) Drawing and summoning grand jurors from the regular jury list at any time, separate from the panel of petit jurors;
      (c) Empaneling more than one grand jury in a county; and
      (d) The sitting of a grand jury during vacation as well as session of the court.
      (2) A grand jury shall consist of seven jurors chosen by lot from the whole number of jurors in attendance at the court, five of whom must concur to find an indictment.
      (3) Except as provided in subsections (4) and (5) of this section, a person shall be charged in a circuit court with the commission of any crime punishable as a felony only on indictment by a grand jury.
      (4) The district attorney may charge a person on an information filed in circuit court of a crime punishable as a felony if the person appears before the judge of the circuit court and knowingly waives indictment.
      (5) The district attorney may charge a person on an information filed in circuit court if, after a preliminary hearing before a magistrate, the person has been held to answer upon a showing of probable cause that a crime punishable as a felony has been committed and that the person has committed it, or if the person knowingly waives preliminary hearing.
      (6) An information shall be substantially in the form provided by law for an indictment. The district attorney may file an amended indictment or information whenever, by ruling of the court, an indictment or information is held to be defective in form.
      (7) In civil cases three-fourths of the jury may render a verdict. [Created through S.J.R. 1, 1973, and adopted by the people Nov. 5, 1974 (this section adopted in lieu of former section 5 of this Article)]
      Section 6. Incompetency or malfeasance of public officer. Public officers shall not be impeached; but incompetency, corruption, malfeasance or delinquency in office may be tried in the same manner as criminal offenses, and judgment may be given of dismissal from office, and such further punishment as may have been prescribed by law. [Created through initiative petition filed July 7, 1910, and adopted by the people Nov. 8, 1910]

      Section 7. Oath of office of Judges of Supreme Court.
Every judge of the supreme court, before entering upon the duties of his office, shall take and subscribe, and transmit to the secretary of state, the following oath:
      “I, ____________, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support the constitution of the United States, and the constitution of the State of Oregon, and that I will faithfully and impartially discharge the duties of a judge of the supreme court of this state, according to the best of my ability, and that I will not accept any other office, except judicial offices, during the term for which I have been elected.” [Created through initiative petition filed July 7, 1910, and adopted by the people Nov. 8, 1910]

      Section 8. Removal, suspension or censure of judges.
(1) In the manner provided by law, and notwithstanding section 1 of this Article, a judge of any court may be removed or suspended from his judicial office by the Supreme Court, or censured by the Supreme Court, for:
      (a) Conviction in a court of this or any other state, or of the United States, of a crime punishable as a felony or a crime involving moral turpitude; or
      (b) Wilful misconduct in a judicial office where such misconduct bears a demonstrable relationship to the effective performance of judicial duties; or
      (c) Wilful or persistent failure to perform judicial duties; or
      (d) Generally incompetent performance of judicial duties; or
      (e) Wilful violation of any rule of judicial conduct as shall be established by the Supreme Court; or
      (f) Habitual drunkenness or illegal use of narcotic or dangerous drugs.
      (2) Notwithstanding section 6 of this Article, the methods provided in this section, section 1a of this Article and in section 18, Article II of this Constitution, are the exclusive methods of the removal, suspension, or censure of a judge. [Created through S.J.R. 9, 1967, and adopted by the people Nov. 5, 1968; Amendment proposed by S.J.R. 48, 1975, and adopted by the people May 25, 1976] 

      Section 9. Juries of less than 12 jurors. Provision may be made by law for juries consisting of less than 12 but not less than six jurors. [Created through S.J.R. 17, 1971, and adopted by the people Nov. 7, 1972]