Measure 37: Oregon Supreme Court Gets One Right

by | Feb 27, 2006

The Oregon Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the constitutionality of Measure 37, the property rights initiative approved by the voters in 2004. It requires government to either compensate landowners for reductions of real property fair market value due to certain land use regulations or modify, remove or not apply such regulations. Most Oregonians understand the […]

The Oregon Supreme Court has unanimously upheld the constitutionality of Measure 37, the property rights initiative approved by the voters in 2004. It requires government to either compensate landowners for reductions of real property fair market value due to certain land use regulations or modify, remove or not apply such regulations.

Most Oregonians understand the importance of protecting property rights, and they voted to require their government to understand that importance as well. A few dissenters challenged the measure and won in circuit court, but the highest court in our state has now soundly rejected their arguments.

The most interesting claim against Measure 37 was that it violated the legislature’s right to make laws. In rejecting that argument, the Court restated what it had previously determined, that:

“Our constitution, like all other state constitutions, is not to be regarded as a grant of power, but rather a limitation upon the powers of the legislature. The people, in adopting it, committed to the legislature the whole law making power of the state, which they did not expressly or impliedly withhold.”

Oregonians have now withheld from government the power to arbitrarily reduce the value of our property without consequence. The state can still enact land use laws, but if those laws reduce the value of property you owned at the time the law changed, you can demand that the government modify, remove or not apply the regulation, or compensate you for your loss.

Both property rights and the principle of limited government were reinforced with their decision.

Steve Buckstein is a Senior Policy Analyst and founder of the Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, Oregon. www.cascadepolicy.org

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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