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Oregon Term Limits for Legislators and Statewide Offices, Measure 3 (1992)

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The Oregon Term Limits for Legislators and Statewide Offices Amendment, also known as Measure 3, was on the November 6, 1992 ballot in Oregon as an initiated constitutional amendment, where it was approved.

It amended Sections 19 and 20 of Article II of the Oregon Constitution to limit the terms of state legislators to six years in the house, eight in the senatate and a combined life-time total of twelve years. The measure also restricted the time that Oregon's representatives in both houses of the U.S. Congress could serve to, respectively, six and twelve years.

The initiative also placed a limit of two terms (eight years) on the statewide elective offices of Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Labor Commissioner.

The measure passed overwhelmingly, with 1,003,706 voters in favor and 439,694 voters opposed.

However, in 1995, in the case of U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, the U.S. Supreme Court ruling rendered the federal limits null and void, and in 2002, in the case of Lehman v. Bradbury‎, the Oregon Supreme Court upheld a lower state court ruling striking down the remaining provisions of the law on the grounds that it violated the single-subject rule.

Election results

Oregon Measure 3 (1992)
Approveda Yes 1,003,706 69.54%

Election results via: Oregon Blue Book

Ballot Title

Limits Terms for Legislature, Statewide Offices, Congressional Offices

Substance of the initiative

Measure 3 amended Articles 19 and 20 of Article II of the Oregon Constitution to limit the terms of state legislators to six years in the house, eight in the senate, and twelve-year combined lifetime total, and similarly restrict Oregon's representatives in the U.S. Congress and Senate to six and twelve years respectively.[1]

The initiative also placed a limit of two terms (eight years) on the statewide elective offices of Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Superintendent of Public Instruction, and Labor Commissioner, as well as making various modifications, either explicitly or implicitly, to other sections of the state Constitution relating to qualifications of voters and candidates for office.[2]

Political history

Although Oregon's Constitution already provided limits on the terms of office of its statewide officeholders of eight years in any twelve-year period, these limits are found among the qualifications for the respective offices, and had never previously been extended to members of the Judiciary or legislature.[3]

As national voter sentiment favoring such limits gained strength, the Oregon Legislative assembly considered broader imposition of term limits in 1991, the Senate and House passing competing measures, but was unable to resolve the differences between the two bills, and rejected limiting congressional terms outright.

Before the 1991 legislature even adjourned, a campaign was begun to place on the ballot by initiative petition Measure 3, which include stricter limits than either the bill passed in the house or the senate, and despite the publicly announced opposition of then-Governor Barbara Roberts, it faced little organized resistance. Oregon voters approved the measure by a margin of more than two to one, casting 1,003,706 votes in favor and only 439,694 against enactment.[4]

The Oregonian summarized the arguments in favor and against the Measure put forth in the campaign, as outlined below:

Arguments of proponents

  • Refresh the political system, removing legislators who had become career politicians and grown out of touch with their constituents.
  • Reduce the excessive time and attention spent on getting re-elected, and dependence of lawmakers on special interests for re-election campaign funds.
  • Incumbents have too great an electoral advantage.
  • Lawmakers are in gridlock because of becoming locked into entrenched positions over time.
  • Freed from political considerations related to re-election, lawmakers would be more free to vote on the merits.
  • The state and federal constitutions already limit terms in other offices.

Arguments of opponents

  • Voters can already remove politicians through regular elections or by recall.
  • Term limits don't distinguish between good and bad legislators.
  • The measure doesn't deal with the root problems of election finance and ethics reform.
  • New lawmakers are more vulnerable to power wielded by lobbyists, staff, bureaucracy, and the media.
  • Term limits won't affect gridlock, being a quick-fix that ignores complicated problems.
  • Limiting terms deprives voters of the right to choose whom they want in office.

Court challenges

U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton

In 1995, in the case of U.S. Term Limits, Inc. v. Thornton, the Supreme Court of the United States rendered section 20 of Measure 3, relating to the terms of members of both houses of Congress, invalid under the federal Constitution, ruling that states lacked authority to impose restrictions on the qualifications for federal office. It was silent on the broader issue of the constitutionality of term limits, nor did it address the matter of state offices, and thus the remaining provisions of Measure 3's amendment of the state Constitution were left in place.[5]

Markham v. Keisling

In September, 1997, State Representative Bill Markham, a Republican, filed suit in the U.S. District Court alleging the law was unconstitutional on the grounds it violated their First and Fourteenth Amendment voting and association rights of incumbents and voters. On December 16, 1997, Judge Magistrate Thomas Coffin ruled in favor of Markham, but later reversed himself in accordance with a December 19, 1997, Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling upholding California’s term limits law, concluding voters understood the lifetime ban such initiatives imposed.[6]

Lehman v. Bill Bradbury

On January 11, 2002, upholding a decision by Oregon Circuit Court Judge Richard D. Barber, the Oregon Supreme Court ruled that enactment of Measure 3 had violated Article XVII, section 1, of the Oregon Constitution which prohibits multiple constitutional amendments combined in a single measure. Again, the court refrained from addressing the broader issue of term limits themselves, confining itself to the matter of their having been enacted in violation of the "separate vote" provision of Oregon's constitution.[1]

Attempts to restore term limits

31.4% of the 113,000 signatures collected on a 2002 petition to restore Measure 3's term limits were ruled invalid, so the drive failed to meet the requirement of 89,048 valid signatures to appear on that year's general election ballot. In 2006, a similar initiative, Oregon Ballot Measure 45 (2006) was defeated 555,016 to 788,895.[2]

See also

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Parts of this article were taken from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Copyright Notice can be found here.