During a presidential election year, especially one as contentious as 2020, it is easy to disregard the importance of ballot measures on voters. Measures, also called propositions or questions, are enacted at either the local, county or state level and can affect matters such as taxes, infrastructure or criminal penalties on a regional level. For Portland residents, the 2020 ballot contained four statewide measures, two countywide measures and four citywide measures encompassing various issues from public library funding to drug decriminalization.
Result: PASS (78%/22%)
Measure 107 authorizes the Oregon state legislature and local governments to limit political contributions and require disclosure of those contributions. During this election, Oregon was one of five states to allow unlimited campaign contributions and did not require contributions to be disclosed. While this measure is not expected to have a financial impact on voters, it will clear the way for increased transparency in the Oregon electoral system.
Result: PASS (66%/34%)
Measure 108 increases taxes on distributors of cigarettes, cigars and nicotine-inhalant devices beginning on Jan. 1, 2021. According to the Truth Initiative, 7.8% of young adults aged 18-24 used e-cigarettes in 2018, and 56% of that group also used cigarettes. Though Lewis & Clark is a smoke and vape-free campus, based on the Truth Initiative’s research roughly 200 students will be impacted by the impending price increase of nicotine and tobacco products. The cigarette tax will be raised to 16.65 cents per cigarette, tripling the tax paid by the distributor for an average pack of 20 cigarettes. Electronic cigarettes and other nicotine inhalants will be taxed at 65% of the wholesale sales price, as well as cigars. Ninety percent of the revenue earned from this tax, which is expected to equal about $160 million annually from the cigarette tax alone, will fund the state’s Medical Assistance Program through the Oregon Health Authority (OHA). The other 10% will be appropriated to the OHA for distribution to tribal health providers.
Result: PASS (56%/44%)
Measure 109 authorizes the OHA to develop a program to administer psilocybin products. Psilocybin is a hallucinogenic chemical found in some mushrooms and is currently classified by the Drug Enforcement Agency as a Schedule I drug. Schedule I drugs are those with a high potential for abuse and the ability to cause severe physical or psychological harm. The Food and Drug Administration has characterized psilocybin products as a breakthrough treatment for major depressive disorder based on two recent clinical trials conducted by Compass Pathways and the Usona Institute. The OHA will have two years to develop the program and will be advised by an Oregon Psilocybin Advisory Board. The measure allows local governments to place referendums on future ballots to prohibit or allow psilocybin manufacturing or service centers within their districts. Even if such a system is created in Portland, psilocybin products will not be permitted on campus because LC must follow federal law in order to continue receiving federal funding.
Result: PASS (59%/41%)
Measure 110 reclassifies possession of Schedule I-IV drugs such as cocaine, heroin and methamphetamine from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class E violation. A Class E violation is penalized by a $100 fine, compared to the 364 days in jail or $6,250 fine carried by a Class A misdemeanor charge. The measure does not affect drug distribution or manufacturing; these offenses still carry criminal punishments of up to 30 years in jail. The measure also creates a state drug treatment and recovery program paid for by marajuana tax revenue and prison savings from decreased arrests.
Result: PASS (60%/40%)
The passage of Measure 26-211 expands the Multnomah County Library system by 50%. This will be achieved by expanding seven existing library branches and constructing a new library branch in Gresham. The bond has a value of $387 million and will cost property owners an average of 61 cents per every $1,000. Multnomah County’s public library system was ranked the fourth busiest in the country as of 2020 but has not expanded since the last library bond in 1996.
Result: PASS (64%/36%)
Also known as the “preschool for all” initiative, Measure 26-214 will make preschool tuition-free for all three-and four-year-olds in the county. The measure is intended to provide assistance to those in marginalized communities and those below the poverty line. Measure 26-214 will be funded by taxing individuals making more than $125,000 and couples making more than $200,00 a year an extra 1.5%, and individuals making more than $250,000 or couples making more than $400,000 an extra 3%. These tax rates will increase to 2.3% and 3.8% respectively, starting in 2026. The passage of this measure means that Portland now has the highest combined state and local income tax in the nation, at 14.6%
Result: FAIL (43%/57%)
Measure 26-218 would have raised $250 million to be spent on transit-related infrastructure projects by imposing a 0.75% tax on all employers with 26 or more employees. The measure was supported by the Metro Council and opposed by the Stop Metro Tax Campaign, which included representatives from many Portland-area businesses. It would have made all TriMet and MAX tickets free to students. The measure would have also added a new MAX line along Barbur Boulevard with a stop at the Burlingame Fred Meyer, from which downtown would have been less than 10 minutes via light rail.
Result: PASS (64%/36%)
Measure 26-213 enacts a tax of 80 cents per $1,000 of assessed home value to preserve city park services and recreation programs. The tax begins in 2021, lasts for five years and is expected to raise approximately $45 million annually.
Result: PASS (82%/18%)
Measure 26-217 amends the city charter to include the creation of a Police Oversight Board. Board members will be appointed by the Portland City Council for terms that have yet to be determined. Board members must include members of diverse backgrounds and cannot include any person who is currently or has ever been employed by law enforcement. The board will receive funding of no less than 5% of the Portland Police Bureau’s annual budget; in 2020 this amounts to $11.5 million. The board will have the power to investigate claims of excessive force, violation of constitutional rights, discrimination and other instances of misconduct. The board also has the power to impose disciplinary action, the most severe being the termination of an officer, which the current Independent Police Review does not have the power to do. This measure is part of the flood of legislation written following the death of George Floyd and the subsequent “defund the police” movement, which many LC students participated in.
Result: PASS (75%/25%)
Measure 26-215 authorized Portland Public Schools to issue $1.2 billion in bonds to fund educational facility improvements. The measure does not increase property taxes on Portland residents to pay back the bonds. The funding appropriated by the measure will go towards renovating schools, developing a culturally-responsive community plan and strengthening building security and seismic safety.