We begin our endorsements in the 2016 general election with three statewide ballot measures that deserve to pass and have little or no opposition. We will address other measures on the ballot in later editorials.
Measure 94 would remove the statutory age limit that requires all judges in Oregon to retire at 75 whether they want to or not. We all know vital, energetic people in their 70s, and among them are some very experienced, capable judges. There is no rational reason to set an arbitrary age limit. If a judge wants to continue serving — or an attorney wants to run for the bench after retiring from private practice, more power to them.
If a judge truly is declining in ability, there are mechanisms in place to remove them from the bench, should it come to that. It's also unlikely that a great many judges will want to continue working after 75, but if they want to, it can benefit the public and help the court system cope with a shortage of judges, which has been a problem at times.
Measure 95 would do once and for all what a state law passed three years ago was supposed to accomplish: allow state universities to invest in equities markets to better manage their finances and create income they otherwise would be denied. The law, Senate Bill 270, was the one that allowed the state's seven public universities to create their own boards and govern themselves separately from the Oregon University System. The bill also allowed the schools to manage their own finance and to invest money.
But the state constitution has a clause that prohibits "the state" from owning stock. There are specific exceptions built in, and Measure 95 would add university funds to that list, clarifying what should have been clear all along.
University investments must be secure, of course, and subject to public disclosure. But allowing investments has the potential to help hold down tuition rates.
Measure 100 would outlaw trafficking of endangered exotic animal parts within Oregon. It sounds a little far-fetched, but supporters say there is a shadowy market in ivory, rhinoceros horn and other illicit items in the state. Federal law prohibits such sales, but the Endangered Species Act does not apply to in-state trade in animal parts.
California and Washington have enacted laws against such trade. It's time for Oregon to join with them in cracking down on trade that hastens the decline of many beloved animal species around the world, including elephants, whales, jaguars, lions, leopards, cheetahs and sea turtles.
We recommend yes votes on Measures 94, 95 and 100.