Measure seeks to fix language in state constitution
- Ramona McCallister
- Central Oregonian - News
A measure that changes and eliminates confusion in the language in the Oregon Constitution to clarify the governmental system regarding the separation of powers will appear in the November ballot.
>Proponents of Measure 78 say changes are needed to reflect the intent of the document
According to the proponents of Measure 78, Oregon’s naming system is confusing and out of line with what people learn in school because the Constitution refers to the Legislative, Judicial and Executive “departments” instead of branches.
The ballot measure would align Oregon’s Constitution with Oregonians’ common understanding by describing the state government as having an Executive Branch, a Judicial Branch and a Legislative Branch – which would in turn be divided into the Senate Chamber and the House of Representatives Chamber.
“In the Oregon Constitution, we have three separate branches of government,” said Oregon State Representative Mike McLane (R-Dist. 55). “That model was adopted, but for some reason, they put in the constitution the word, “department.”
Oregon State Representative (R-Dist. 3) Wally Hicks, the originator and chief sponsor of Measure 78, said that they are still doing work on the measure on legislative procedural steps.
‘What the measure essentially does is it causes our state constitution to more effectively reflect the intent of what it is saying,” said Hicks.
He noted that in schools, students learn that there are three branches of government and two houses of legislature. In Oregon, that is also the case, except in the written constitution, it says there are three departments of government and instead of chambers of legislature, there are two branches of legislature.
Hicks added that it becomes very confusing when referring to the Department of Justice and the Judicial Department.
“They would sound like, if not the same agency, very similar ones when in fact, they are vastly different,” explained Hicks.
The Department of Justice is a subset of the Executive Branch and is the Attorney General’s Office and they argue cases in the courts of Oregon. The Judicial Department is the Oregon Court System.
“On the ground, we do see some potential for confusion — if not actual confusion. I think we are all better off having the Constitution that says what it actually means,” said Hicks.
He emphasized that it would not affect or diminish anybody’s rights.
“It will, however, make the Constitution more effective over time, because now we have a Constitution that is more readily and easily understood by the people whose rights it is designed to protect, and more effective in communicating its intent.”
The measure additionally modernizes spelling and makes grammatical changes to replace existing references to the Secretary of State as “he,” “him,” and “his” with gender-neutral wording.
Hicks was not able to say whether voters would be able to see the final Oregon Constitution with changes before voting on the Measure in November.
Amends Constitution: Changes constitutional language describing governmental system of separation of powers; makes grammatical and spelling changes
“Yes” Vote: “Yes” vote changes constitutional language describing separation of powers to refer to three “branches”
(Instead of three “departments”) of government; makes other grammatical, spelling changes.
“No” Vote: “No” vote retains existing constitutional language describing separation of powers between three
“Departments” of government (rather than three “branches” of government); retains misspelled, other language.