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Just Say No To Measure 73 September 19, 2010

Posted by FairSentencing in : Current News , trackback

Here’s an editorial from the Eugene Register Guard:

It won’t be easy for many Oregonians to vote no on Kevin Mannix’s latest anti-crime initiative, which would mandate tougher sentences on sex offenders and repeat drunken drivers.

But that’s exactly what they should do — cast a clear and emphatic no vote on Measure 73, and then call friends who haven’t voted yet and urge them to do the same.

Say this much for Mannix, the former gubernatorial candidate turned serial petitioner: The guy knows how to put together an initiative that gleams like the latest model on an auto showroom floor. The thought of locking away repeat sex offenders for 25 years appeals to anyone fed up with reading about convicted rapists released from prison only to resume their predatory ways. And it’s hard not to mutter an amen at the thought of getting drunken drivers off the road and behind bars for 90 days after their third conviction.

But as any Oregonian who has shopped for cars knows, it’s wise to look under the hood before signing on the dotted line. In the case of Measure 73, there is a revenue-gobbling engine that would cost the state an estimated $238 million over the next 10 years — money that would not be available to pay for schools, higher education and other fundamental state services.

In 1994, voters approved Measure 11, an initiative that put in place mandatory minimum sentences for violent crimes. Since then, Oregon’s prison population has doubled from 7,000 to 14,000, and it will continue to grow in coming years.

Oregon can’t afford another unfunded anti-crime mandate. Not when the state faces a $2.5 billion shortfall in the next biennium.

As with many initiatives, Measure 73 has unintended consequences. For example, it is supposed to target repeat offenders, but it could result in a first-time offender as young as 15 years old receiving a 25-year mandatory minimum sentence. There are also redundancies — Oregon already has mandatory minimum sentences for some sex offenses.

Last month, the newly established Citizen Initiative Review Panel, a pilot project approved by the Legislature to let citizens express their views as part of the initiative process, spent a week examining Measure 73. The panel voted overwhelmingly to oppose it, saying that mandating longer prison terms would cost too much and would limit the power and discretion of judges.

Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley has joined his Democratic opponent, John Kitzhaber, in opposing Measure 73. Both agree that the state cannot afford its price tag.

In a state that is swiftly running out of the money it needs to maintain essential services, Dudley and Kitzhaber are right to oppose Measure 73. Oregon voters should follow their lead and vote no.



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