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MailTribune.com
  • Measure 73: No

    Longer sentences make people feel safer, but the state has no money to spare
  • Kevin Mannix, the former lawmaker who never met a serious criminal he didn't want to put in prison for a very long time, is back with another initiative to throw the book at some very bad people.
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  • Kevin Mannix, the former lawmaker who never met a serious criminal he didn't want to put in prison for a very long time, is back with another initiative to throw the book at some very bad people.
    Ballot Measure 73 would impose mandatory minimum sentences for certain sex offenders who commit a second offense and for people who are repeatedly arrested for drunken driving. It's hard to argue that people who do very bad things to other people shouldn't be prevented from doing it again. But it's also hard to argue that this measure is the best way to do it, or that Oregon can afford it.
    Measure 73 would impose a 25-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for anyone convicted a second time for first-degree rape, first-degree sodomy, first-degree unlawful sexual penetration or using a child in a display of sexually explicit conduct — the four most serious sex crimes under state law.
    The other part of the measure applies to a third conviction in a 10-year period for driving under the influence of intoxicants. That's now a misdemeanor; Measure 73 would make it a felony, with a mandatory minimum sentence of three months in jail.
    Mannix points out that, under Oregon's diversion program for first-time DUII offenders, the conviction is erased if the driver complies with the conditions. So a third conviction in many cases is really the fourth time the driver was caught driving drunk.
    Current law classifies the fourth conviction as a felony — meaning it could be the fifth time the driver was caught.
    These are extreme cases, which call for extreme measures. But those measures come with a price tag — $1.4 million the first year, increasing after that to as much as $29 million in the fifth year and beyond.
    Mannix objects to those who call that an "unfunded mandate." The measure calls for the state to pick up the tab, he says, which amounts to one-fifth of 1 percent of the general fund. And, he says, the voters get to decide how the general fund is spent.
    Yes, they do — if Mannix or someone else gets an initiative on the ballot. Ordinarily, it's the job of the Legislature, elected by the voters, to determine the state budget.
    Follow Mannix's reasoning to its logical conclusion, and what you end up with is budgeting by initiative — and that's no way to run a state.
    The 2011 session of the Legislature will grapple with a $3 billion hole in the next two-year budget. Measure 73 wouldn't amount to a very large chunk of that, but every dollar should be on the table. This measure would lock up some of those dollars. We recommend a no vote on Ballot Measure 73.
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