A Guide to the State of Oregon
The Oregon Blue Book is an official state directory and manual concerning state, county, city, federal and tribal governments, with related general information.
The online version is continually updated and contains more information and resources than is possible with the paper copy. This site will give you a thorough knowledge of Oregon including its history, physical characteristics, recreation, state government, local government, voting information, cultural activities, plus lots more. So, take a tour of the state capitol, view scenes from Oregon counties, and hear the state song, Oregon, My Oregon.
Oregon: The Name
The first written record of the name “Oregon” comes to us from a 1765 proposal for a journey written by Major Robert Rogers, an English army officer. It reads, “The rout … is from the Great Lakes towards the Head of the Mississippi, and from thence to the River called by the Indians Ouragon. …” His proposal rejected, Rogers reapplied in 1772, using the spelling “Ourigan.” The first printed use of the current spelling appeared in Captain Jonathan Carver’s 1778 book, “Travels Through the Interior Parts of North America 1766, 1767 and 1768.” He listed the four great rivers of the continent, including “the River Oregon, or the River of the West, that falls into the Pacific Ocean at the Straits of Annian.”
In April, 2004, two researchers say they’ve solved one of the oldest place name mysteries in the country: the origin of “Oregon.” “This is really the holy grail of U.S. place names,” Thomas Love, a Linfield College anthropology professor, said. “It took us a long time, but we nailed it.” Love, working by telephone and e-mail with Ives Goddard, a Smithsonian Institution linguist, labored more than six years devising and refining the theory. “Oregon,” they argue, is derived from “wauregan,” a Connecticut tribe’s pidgin word for “good, beautiful.” They also argue that “wauregan” was related to another Eastern tribe’s word “olighin,” which means “beautiful river” — and that link led to the use of “wauregan” in naming a Northwest river flowing into the Pacific Ocean.
The Oregon Encyclopedia
In 2007, Portland State University and the Oregon Historical Society launched “The Oregon Encyclopedia,” a free online facts about the significant people, places, institutions and events that have shaped who, where and what we are. The encyclopedia will be a work in progress through 2009, when the state celebrates its 150th birthday.
The project will grow and change as Oregon does, the encyclopedia is expected to include up to 3,000 entries with more than 200 essays, plus photos, documents and maps. They will cover topics dating from 10,000 years ago to present, and range from economic and demographic shifts to biographies, art, music, popular culture, plus more.
What is an Oregonian
Chet Orloff, former head of the Oregon Historical Society, wrote a column in The Oregonian about the character of Oregonians in November 2001. This was after Oregon has taken on the US Attorney General (John Ashcroft), in challenging directives to abrogate our Death with Dignity Act and, in Portland, to detain and interview visitors and citizens of Middle Eastern descent. Here are some of his words.
We Oregonians are a contrary lot. The vast majority of those on the Oregon Trail in the mid-19th century turned south to the California gold fields. A few headed north, marking the beginning of the state of Oregon as we know it now. They took the road less traveled.
It took years for many of the other states to catch up with Oregon’s initiative, referendum and recall governance. Today, for all its many faults, the system is the stock in trade of participatory democracy.
Governor Oswald West made the beaches open to all by declaring the coastline a public highway and setting the course for Oregon’s 20th century conservation movement. What notions in a land of private property! West dealt with legislators by announcing that if they tried to kill off his measures, he would “veto any bill that they fathered . . . whether it had merit or not.” In 1911 he vetoed 63 bills.
The go-against-the-grain leadership of Wayne Morse (Vietnam), Maurine Neuberger (women’s issues), Mark Hatfield (use of military force, health care and education), Tom McCall (land use) and Neil Goldschmidt (downtown revitalization) pushed and pulled Oregonians, and Americans, to think in new ways.
Consider Metro, still one of the nation’s better efforts at regional government and yet one that few other regions have emulated — not from lack of trying and enthusiasm, but from lack of will and imagination. It will take decades even for many Oregonians to appreciate what future historians will acknowledge as yet another example of Oregon’s being ahead of the curve.
Oregon, in the words of its deeply missed laureate Terence O’Donnell, is a “time-deep land.” The land itself and the history upon it are unique to Oregon. Considering all that we face today, how well we manage this land can continue to set us apart from, and put us ahead of, the crowd.
Oregon’s Relationship With California
Oregonians love to complain about them, those outsiders from other states who don’t appreciate the Oregon way of doing things.
Carl Abbot is a teacher of urban studies and planning at Portland State University. He is the author of a number of studies of the changing patterns of regional growth in the United States, including The Metropolitan Frontier: Cities in the Modern American West. Carl had this to say in mid-October 2005 in a article in The Oregonian entitled, Caught in California’s Orbit.
We talk about showing visitors the door, rolling up the welcome mat and legislating zero growth. We hold up Los Angeles as the Godzilla of planning, and we fear creeping Seattleization.
Well, let’s get over it. For the foreseeable future, Oregon is the little state between two bigger states. We should happily look for the benefits that spill over the borders. California, like it or not, provides us with brains, capital, customers and a shove into the fast lane.
So maybe it’s time to revisit our Cali-phobia. Here are six ways California and Californians are making Oregon a more prosperous and interesting place.
- Without Silicon Valley, the Silicon Forest would be the Silicon Woods. Oregon did develop a homegrown electronics industry in Tektronix and its progeny, such as Mentor Graphics and Floating Point Systems, but Tek reached the top of its growth curve in the 1970s. Since then we’ve depended on Hewlett Packard (from California) and Intel (from . . . you know the answer).
- Which brings up point two: Without California’s universities, less brain power would be available to tackle Oregon problems. This state’s higher education system doesn’t match California’s. Given our chronic under funding of higher education, Oregon depends on recruiting highly credentialed workers from California universities to compete in a brain-powered world. Lots of attention has been devoted to the problem of expanding engineering programs in Oregon universities, but the need for educated talent stretches across the board.
- Oregon is pinning a lot of hope on the “creative services” sector of the economy, which produces the software, multimedia, advertising and entertainment products that flow through every cell phone, computer, satellite dish and cable hookup. It’s great that Portland is one of the most attractive cities in the country for cool, well-educated people in their 20s and early 30s. But California’s huge media and entertainment industry is an essential client of ours. For a little history, remember it was California raisins that made Will Vinton Studios an early success in this field.
- More Californians mean more diversity of ethnicity and ideas. Fifty years from now, the United States is going to be a rainbow nation of races and ethnic groups, with European-origin Americans no longer the automatic majority. California is getting there first, as it does in a lot of things. One reaction has been what Mary Murphy, a Montana State University professor, called the “white flight highway” that white Californians take to Idaho, Nevada, Utah or Montana in the hope of escaping racial diversity. Oregon is also one of the white flight destinations, but our civic culture has not been especially receptive. Instead, California migration is slowly helping Oregon ease into the Pacific Rim world in which Asians, North Americans, Central Americans and South Americans mingle in a vast global neighborhood and marketplace.
- Without Californians, the Oregon Shakespeare Festival would find it hard to maintain its rich array of offerings and outstanding national reputation. Why? There are more Californians in its audience than Oregonians (44 percent to 38 percent. And what would Mount Bachelor do without California skiers? What would Oregon Coast restaurants and motels do without California tourists? How would Realtors in Central Oregon fill their time if they couldn’t show vacation and retirement properties to Californians?
- Last but not least, it’s time for a confession. I’m not a native here, although I consider myself a naturalized Oregonian. I reached Portland by way of school years in Dayton, Ohio, higher education in Philadelphia and Chicago and university jobs in Denver and Norfolk, Va. When I arrived, in 1977, one of the first things I noticed was a peculiar Oregon approach to freeway driving. Oregonians were slow! They may have had freeways, but they treated them like Oregon 34, wending its quiet two-lane way from Waldport to Alsea. Californians have been the cure. By impatient example, they’ve taught us how to merge into fast-moving traffic. It’s about time we learned. The 21st century will make the 20th look pokey, so we can be grateful for anyone who gets us up to speed.
Native Oregonians are a Minority
If you were born in Oregon and still living in the state, you’re in the minority. The New York Times’ Upshot blog took on the task of figuring out where people living in a state are actually from, starting in 1900. Only 46 percent of the population are Oregon natives.
The largest transplant population in Oregon? Yes, it’s Californians — you weren’t just imagining it. About 14 percent of Oregonians in 2012 were actually born in the Golden State, which has been a rising trend since the 1950s. Before World War II, only about 3 percent of the population was from down south.
Oregon has consistently had between 5 and 6 percent of people coming from Washington since the 1930s.
The Computer Game: Oregon Trail
Remoteness contributes to Oregon’s reputation as a wild place, a state of tough and rugged individuals. The journey lives on in books, school texts and museums, but probably never with as much reach as a computer game of the same name. Oregon Trail infiltrated primitive school computer labs of the 1980s.
The game was created in 1971 by Don Rawitsch and two friends, all seniors at Minnesota’s Carleton College, on a mainframe computer. Rawitsch researched the game by poring through real Oregon Trail diaries and maps. He kept a scorecard, noting the frequency of storms, food shortages and illness to build probabilities.
The game was inspired by the real-life Oregon Trail and was designed to teach school children about the realities of 19th century pioneer life on the trail. The player assumes the role of a wagon leader guiding his party of settlers from Independence, Missouri, to Oregon’s Willamette Valley by way of the Oregon Trail via a Conestoga wagon in 1848.
A few years later, Rawitsch was hired at a Minnesota state-funded organization that developed educational software, and he resurrected oregon trail. as personal computers spread, so did the game. He uploaded his game into the organization’s network where it could be accessed by schools across minnesota, and it proved so popular that it was released and sold on floppy disk in 1985, when the format became popular. Several updated versions were released.
By then, Rawitsch had impressions of modern Oregon: politically progressive, environmentally conscious. He heard about Steve Prefontaine, the legendary runner known for his grit. “The people who made it, they had to be special,” he says. “They had to be tough and resourceful and self-sufficient. I’m sure they had to build their lives from scratch. That whole self-reliant aspect, for me, matches up with the people from your state who have done pioneering work.”
Source: Article entitled, “Sequential al Identities,” The Oregonian, February 14, 2009.
Oregon Economic Data
Oregon ranks 15th in the Progressive Policy Institute’s New Economy Index, 23rd in PricewaterhouseCoopers’ venture capital index and 27th in per-capita income according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Take a stroll through a detailed website called EconData. The site has links to anything that you want to count, measure, sort, or slice about the regional economy.
In 1950, forest products manufacturing − “lumber and wood products” and “paper and allied products” − employed 62 percent of Oregon’s manufacturing workers. By 1997, it employed 25 percent.
Oregon Manufacturing Sector Big Player in U.S.
Nearly 20 percent of Oregon’s gross state product comes from manufacturing, making the state one of the top states in the economic influence of manufacturing according to the The Center for Business and Economic Research (CBER), an economic policy and forecasting research center housed within Ball State University’s Miller College of Business.
The state, especially the Portland area, is particularly strong in metals fabrication and machining work. Firms that cut, bend and weld steel for other industrial uses employ a large number of workers. Oregon’s other manufactured goods include lumber and plywood, trucks, streetcars and barges, energy-related items such as wind turbine towers and oil tanks, medical equipment, and an impressive array of food products.
According to the National Association of Manufacturers, the state’s 5,300 manufacturing firms employ about 164,000 people and produce goods worth about $34 billion a year.
The impact is significant. Oregon manufacturers pay an average of $66,472 annually, according to the association. Those are the family-wage jobs communities hope to recruit, and they in turn boost retail and housing markets and produce taxes to support schools and other public services.
Semiconductors, Solar Panels, and Data Centers
In 1994 and 1995, several companies announced their intention to build large semiconductor factories in Oregon within a few years. These factories would employ a total of several thousand people in the manufacture of microcomputer chips. By 1997, several of these new factories had been built and 28 percent of Oregon’s manufacturing workers were employed in high technology companies. But these high-profile factories had a solid base of high technology on which to build. Intel’s 15,000 – 17,000 Oregon workers are the largest number of Intel workers employed in any state. The suburban area and towns just west of Portland are collectively referred to as the Silicon Forest.
As early as 1946, Oregon became home to a prominent electronics company named Tektronix, a company that continues to play an important role in the state’s high technology industry. Hewlett-Packard joined Oregon’s growing high tech industry in 1975, followed by Intel in 1976. Many more prominent high technology companies opened factories in Oregon during the 1980s and 1990s. Some of them were spinoffs of Oregon’s existing high technology companies.
Converting Chip Plants to Solar Panels
The chip industry has vacated some of their plants in the Washington County area and moved more of their operations to Asia. Some of these former chip plants are now producing solar panels. For example, Solarworld, a German company acquired a chip factory in Hillsboro in 2007 with plans to invest $397 million to double its solar-cell and wafer production by 2010 and add 1,000 new jobs. The Hillsboro factory will be the largest solar-wafer and cell factory in the United States.
In July, 2009, a Chinese startup vying for a piece of the U.S. solar market landed in Eugene, Oregon. It hopes to become a national player in the state’s growing photovoltaic industry. Centron Solar will sell and distribute bargain-priced solar panels made in China to the U.S. market, expected to be the world’s next big solar player. It leased its Eugene headquarters and 25,000-square-foot warehouse just in time to store it first million dollar shipment of solar panels from China.
Data centers arrived in Oregon in 2005. From Umatilla to Prineville to Hillsboro, server farms are sprouting across the state. They are the physical manifestations of the cloud that hosts your Gmail, movie streams and Facebook friends. Oregon didn’t set out to recruit data centers, which aren’t big employers as most employ 50-150 workers. Their technology and investment are nonetheless beginning to transform the rural communities where they operate.
This is Oregon’s newest industry and, by some measures, may soon be among its biggest. Only chip-makers spend more on their Oregon facilities. They’re here for the cheap power a big data center can gobble up more electricity than a small town − and the mild climate that keeps their hardworking computers cool. Google pays about 4 cents per kilowatt hour which adds up to about 13 million a year.
Above all, they’re here for tax breaks that make Oregon a relative bargain for companies that can spend $1 billion or more on a single facility.
Data center are attracted by Oregon’s lack of sales tax and the broad property tax exemptions earmarked for companies that build in special tax havens called enterprise zones. Wasco County estimates the enterprise zone saves Google $24 million a year in The Dalles, nearly twice the company’s hefty power bill. Facebook and Amazon enjoy tax breaks in Prineville and Morrow County, respectively, while at least four other companies are scouting rural enterprise zones for possible data centers.
The biggest names on the Web, Facebook, Google and Amazon, are here, and others soon will be. As of early 2012, Apple is building a 10,000 square foot center in Prinville and Amazon and Facebook are both building additional centers in eastern Oregon. Rackspace, a San Antonia-based data hosting company is planning a data center on 99 acres at the Port of Morrow. Other builders, shrouding their identities behind code-names such as “Maverick,” are scouting sites in eastern and central Oregon.
Oregon counties are among the national leaders in multiple crop categories, according to the state Department of Agriculture. Hood River leads the nation in pear production, while Malheur County has more acres planted in onions than any other U.S. county and Umatilla leads in pea production. In all, Oregon counties made the top 10 in acreage or sales value for 75 crops or commodities. The figures come from the 2007 Census of Agriculture. Oregon is the nation’s leading producer of Christmas trees and it produces nearly all of the nation’s hazelnuts.
In Oregon and the nation, cattle are among the top agricultural moneymakers. Cattle are the biggest consumers of corn. In 2008, the Oregon’s cattle industry brought in about $644 million in gross sales (14% of the total state farm sales). In 2009, Oregon had 605,000 beef cattle in 11,500 operations, mostly in the southern and eastern parts of the state. Raising cattle on pastures consumes about 60 percent of the state’s 17 million acres of farmland, according to an Oregon State University Extension Service report. Like logging, ranching has grown controversial and political. Environmental groups worry that cattle herds trample stream banks, causing erosion to salmon habitat. Debates wage over whether cattle should be allowed to graze on public lands, which make up a large portion of the state’s pastureland. At the same time, consumers demand more natural beef raised on grass, without hormones or antibiotics. That requires more grazing land. And ranchers must adjust to a globalized marketplace where currency rates matter.
Oregon Wines: Pinots Have International Reputation
The state of Oregon has established an international reputation for its production of wine, especially Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris. For the first time in its nearly 50-year history, the $2.76 million Oregon industry exceeded the 2 million-case mark, according to the 2011 Oregon Winery Census Report.
Oregon has several different growing regions within the state’s borders which are well-suited to the cultivation of grapes; additional regions straddle the border between Oregon and the states of Washington and Idaho. American Viticultural Areas (AVA) entirely within the state include the Willamette Valley, Southern Oregon, Umpqua Valley, and Rogue Valle. Parts of the Columbia Gorge, Walla Walla Valley, and Snake River Valley AVAs lie within Oregon.
With 350 wineries in Oregon, a tourism industry has developed around wine tasting. Much of the tourism focuses on the wineries and tasting rooms in and around the Yamhill Valley southwest of Portland.
The International Pinor Noir Celebration held every summer is a three-day event, famous around the globe, as a mecca for lovers of Pinot Noir and northwest cuisine. During the weekend, world-renowned winemakers, northwest chefs, esteemed media, epicures and wine lovers will gather in McMinnville, Oregon, for three days of exploring Pinot Noir, savoring unforgettable meals, and learning and celebrating with luminaries of the food and wine world.
Oregon Voting: Initiative and Referendum
As a new Oregonian, you may be in shock when you receive your first “Voter Information” booklets from the Secretary of State. It can take days to digest the volumes – yes, you may get more than one book − and then ponder how to vote on numerous issues.
The Oregon System − the initiative and referendum − gained Oregon national recognition for the degree of citizen involvement in the processes of self-government. Passed by 91% in 1902, Oregon became the third State in the Union to adopt the process. Since then, Oregon voters have deliberated on over 300 measures, more than any of the other 22 states with similar citizen initiative abilities. Oregonians are serious about the Oregon System, and many politicians who have abused the law have suffered the consequence at the ballot box.
Initiatives are citizen-sponsored amendments to either the state constitution or to statutory law. Referrals are proposed laws that the legislature has sent to the voters to either approve or reject. Referendums give citizens the power to refer and vote on acts passed by the previous Legislative Assembly, as long as the act does not take effect earlier than 90 days after the end of the assembly. Initiatives are sponsored by any citizen or organization in the state, as are referendums. Referrals are sponsored by the state legislature.
What is the difference between a constitutional and a statutory amendment? A constitutional amendment amends the Oregon state Constitution, which affects all laws based on the amended portion of the constitution. A statutory initiative either amends state statutes or creates a new state statute, but has no effect on the Oregon constitution.
In order to place a statutory initiative on the ballot the petitioners must collect the signatures of qualified voters, equal to 6 percent of the total votes cast for all candidates at the most recent gubernatorial election. A constitutional amendment initiative, on the other hand, must contain signatures equal to 8 percent of the total votes cast for all candidates at the most recent gubernatorial election. In 2006, it takes 75,630 valid signatures from registered voters to change a state law via initiative and 100,840 to amend the Oregon Constitution.
For more detail information about Oregon’s initiative and referendum law visit these websites:
- BallotMeasure.com An Oregon-based website that tracks initiatives.
- Oregon Voting Maintained by Ernie Delmazzo, a researcher and paralegal. Ernie’s site provides news and information about Oregon voting including the election process and present and proposed law, including ballot initiatives. It’s object is to educate the public in a nonpartisan manner. Ernie has written a number of General Election and Voting Systems Research reports. WARNING: the site is hosted on a “freebie” server so you have to content with the “popup” ads.
- 1996 City Club Report on Initiative and Referendum A public affairs education and research organization serving the Portland metropolitan area for over 80 years.
- Vote Smart A national library of factual information on over 13,000 elected offices and candidates for public office − President, Governors, Congress and State Legislatures.
Oregon’s Free Speech
Oregon is where speech is freer than anywhere else in the nation − or for that matter, perhaps the world. Written in 1857, Oregon’s free-speech guarantee in an article of the state constitution. It reads:
“No law shall be passed restraining the free expression of opinion, or restricting the right to speak, write, or print freely on any subject whatever; but every person shall be responsible for the abuse of this right.”
This language is broader − “any subject whatever” − than the First Amendment. During the 1980s, the Oregon court concluded that Article 18 absolutely forbids government from passing laws directed at the content of what residents express.
Expressive behavior such as speech, writing, film, video, etc. may sometimes injure specific individuals; the state constitution allows those people to receive damages for “abuse” of the right.
This jurisprudence has made Oregon’s free-speech law the most protective in the nation. Nude dancing, for example, is a form of expression and under current reasoning can’t be banned. In a court case, a judge dismissed charges against a nude bicyclist in November 2008 on the grounds that the city’s annual World Naked Bike Ride was a well-established tradition in Portland.
Oregon’s popular self-rule means local juries can’t slap unpopular publications with huge punitive damages for libel. It means the Oregon Legislature can’t pass laws outlawing disparagement of local crops. And it means police in Oregon can’t arrest protesters on public property just because their message is unpopular.
Some Oregonians get upset by the wide-open market in images and words this law has spawned. Three times that minority has asked voters to change the state constitution to make an exception for sex and three times the voters have refused.
Oregon Bottle Bill
In 1971, Oregon passed the first bottle bill (also known as a deposit law) in the United States, requiring a five cent refundable deposits on all beer and soft drink containers. By 1986, ten states (over one-quarter of the U.S. population) had enacted some form of beverage container deposit law or bottle bill.
The first bottle bill was passed in Vermont in 1953. However, it did not institute a deposit system. It merely banned the sale of beer in non-refillable bottles. The law subsequently expired four years later after strong lobbying from the beer industry. British Columbia enacted the first beverage container recovery system in North America in 1970.
A nickel in 1971, when the bill was first passed, is worth 28 cents in 2011. So after years of debate and negotiation, lawmakers approved sweeping changes on 2011 to Oregon’s iconic bottle bill. The bill makes three major changes:
- It puts a nickel deposit on nearly all glass, metal and plastic beverage containers from 4 ounces to 1 1/2 liters with the exception of those containing milk, wine or liquor. This goes into effect no later than Jan. 1, 2018.
- The bill increases the current nickel deposit to a dime − but only if statewide redemption rates fall below 80 percent two years in a row. The earliest this could happen would be 2017.
- It allows the Oregon Beverage Recycling Cooperative to open a pilot redemption center that covers a wider area than the roughly 1.5-mile radius targeted by the two centers, which have been open for less than a year.
Oregon Health Plan
The Oregon Health Plan, begun in 1994, was Oregon’s effort to expand Medicaid to include more low-income residents by giving priority to coverage of the most cost-effective treatments. The reform grew out of 47 “town meetings” in which citizens told officials what kind of care and coverage they valued most.
Oregon uses a list of hundreds of conditions and their treatments and higher priority is given to conditions that can be successfully treated. Also part of the plan is preventive care.
Oregon Public Beaches
In 1913 Gov. Oswald West signed a law that declared Oregon’s beaches a public highway, and thus, public property, to provide citizens with access to “the great birthright of our people.” It wasn’t until 1966 that challenges to ownership of the dry sands above the median high tide mark came into focus. In 1966, Cannon Beach motel owner Bill Hay decided to test those rights. To protect his guests, he put a log barrier on the beach in front of his motel, the Surfsand Motel, and made people leave the area if they were not motel guests. A picnicking couple was told they were trespassing on the sand at a Cannon Beach motel, and the authorities who investigated their complaint were shocked to find that the state was in legal limbo to prevent similar trespassing charges.
In the remarkable 1967 legislative session, House Bill 1601, commonly known as “The Beach Bill,” was introduced and passed making the entire Oregon coast public and removing any doubt of whether the public has access to the beaches. The bill’s passage marked the beginning of an era of progressive conservation measures that provided a national, and even international, model and helped define Oregon’s political, cultural and recreational life.
Oregon Beach Bill decreed that all land within sixteen vertical feet of the average low tide mark belongs to the people of Oregon and guarantees that the public has free and uninterrupted use of the beaches along Oregon’s 363 miles of coastline. A state easement exists up to the line of vegetation. Only one other state, Hawaii, guarantees public access from the surf line to the vegetation line. The Beach Bill also directed that the ocean shore be administered as a state recreation area. The Oregon Parks and Recreation Department is charged with the protection and preservation of the recreation, scenic, and natural resource values found on Oregon’s ocean shore.
Tom Olsen, who teaches filmmaking at Portland Community College, agreed to make a documentary film and compile an exhibit on the historic battle for the society to celebrate Oregon’s 150th birthday next February 2009. Tom Olsen put his discoveries into “Politics of Sand,” which premiered at the Northwest Film & Video Festival in November 2008.
Death with Dignity Act
In 1994 Oregon became the first state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide. Oregon voters narrowly approved the Death With Dignity Act in 1994 and reaffirmed it in 1997 by a 60-40 margin after legal challenges. In 2008, Washington State voters passed Initiative 1000 by nearly 60 percent and their “Death with Dignity” law took effect in early March of 2009. With the Governor’s signature on May 20, 2013, Vermont became the third state to enact a Death with Dignity law—the first in New England and the first to be passed through legislation — the law went into effect immediately. California became the fourth state to legalize doctor-assisted suicide in 2015. In 2009 the Montana Supreme Court ruled that rights granted under the state’s living will law, “The Rights of the Terminally Ill Act,” form the basis for permitting physician “aid in dying.”
Under the Oregon law, doctors can prescribe a lethal drug dose to a terminally ill patient of sound mind who requests it both in writing and aloud, and meets other requirements. Since the law was passed in 1997, 525 (as of the end of 2010) patients have died from ingesting medications prescribed under the Death with Dignity Act.
In a August 22, 2006 article in The Oregonian, Dr. Susan Tolle, Director of the Center for Ethics in Health Care at Oregon Health & Science University, said that several unique factors contributed to Oregon’s enactment of the nation’s first doctor-assisted suicide law. “Among them: the state’s tradition of rugged individualism, its strongly secular politics, its comfort level with uncharted political territory, and its early attention to end-of-life care, including hospice.”
Even aside from assisted suicide, end-of-life care looks different in Oregon. Oregon ranks number one among states in use of home hospice care and fewer than one in four deaths in Oregon occurs in a hospital, half the national rate.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s ruled in January 2006, in favor of Oregon and against the Bush administration, by a 6 to 3 vote. The high court’s ruling did not address the right to end one’s life, but it did end speculation that the Justice Department could punish doctors for prescribing in accordance with Oregon’s Death With Dignity Act. The court decision was an interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act.
Driver’s License: Automatic Voter Registration
The “New Motor Voter Bill” was passed by the Oregon lawmakers in March 2015 and it builds on the existing federal “motor voter” law requiring states to offer people an opportunity to register to vote when they get or update a driver’s license.
Oregon’s measure, House Bill 2177, goes much further. The secretary of state’s office will regularly collect drivers’ license data and “provisionally” register people who aren’t already signed up to vote.
These prospective voters will be sent a notice giving them 21 days to let elections officials know if they don’t want to be registered. As a result, Oregon will become the first voter registration system that is “opt out” instead of “opt in.”
Newly registered voters will also be given information on how to register with one of the state’s political parties. If they don’t, they will be listed as non-affiliated.
Experts say the new system actually provides greater assurance that only citizens are registering. That’s because Oregon’s Driver & Motor Vehicle Services Division collects citizenship data. Since 2009, the state requires that drivers’ license applicants provide proof of legal residency — and the Department of Mother Vehicles (DMV) data distinguishes between those who are citizens and those who are not.
In comparison, when people fill out voter registration forms, they are asked if they are a citizen — and are warned they are committing a felony if they lie — but don’t have to provide any proof.
Gay Marriages in Oregon and Washington State
Same-sex marriage has been legally recognized in Oregon since May 19, 2014, when a U.S. federal district court judge ruled that Oregon’s 2004 state constitutional amendment banning such marriages discriminated on the basis of sexual orientation in violation of the Equal Protection Clause of the federal constitution. A campaign that was then under way to win voter approval of a constitutional amendment legalizing same-sex marriage was suspended following the decision.
Oregon began recognizing same-sex marriages from other jurisdictions in October 2013. Domestic partnerships have been allowed since 2008.
Washington legalize same-sex marriage in February, 2012. The debate in Washington was far from over as opponents of same-sex marriage vow to fight the bill with a repeal measure. So in November 2012 voters decided by a margin of 52-48 that allows same-sex couples to marry, applies marriage laws without regard to gender, and specifies that laws using gender-specific terms like husband and wife include same-sex spouses. It preserves the right of clergy or religious organizations to refuse to perform or recognize any marriage or accommodate wedding ceremonies. The bill does not affect licensing of religious organizations providing adoption, foster-care, or child-placement.
Marijuana is Legal
Oregon voters approved Measure 91, which legalized recreational marijuana in the state, in November 2014. Fifty-six percent of Oregonians voted in favor of legalization. Under Measure 91, Oregon residents are allowed to grow limited amounts of marijuana on their property and possess limited amounts of pot for personal use. Eventually, when Oregon’s system for legal retail sales is fully implemented, the state’s sales tax on marijuana will be 17 percent, with local governments allowed to levy an additional 3 percent. Your can find the latest information on the Marijuana Policy Program, including frequently asked questions, at www.portlandoregon.gov/oni/marijuana.
From the 2010 Census
Oregon’s population grew by 409,675 people over the decade, up 12 percent, according to Census figures. Oregon is up one notch, to 27th in the nation.
Even though Central Oregon suffered heavily in the recession, the boom that came before resulted in Bend gaining 47 percent in population over the decade, according to the figures released Wednesday. Bend’s smaller Deschutes County neighbor Redmond nearly doubled in size. The county itself grew by 37 percent, and neighboring Jefferson County grew 14 percent. Among the largest cities, Grants Pass in Southern Oregon recorded a 50 percent growth rate, although one population expert noted that nearly half the new population was annexed into the city. Jackson County grew 12 percent, and its seat, Medford, the seventh-largest city grew 19 percent. Five counties in Northwest Oregon and the middle Willamette Valley were among the eight that had growth above the state average. Notable was the state’s second-most populous county, Washington, at 19 percent. The others were Columbia and Linn at 13 percent, Polk at 21 percent and Yamhill at 17 percent.
|3,831,074 people called themselves Oregonians according to the 2010 census. In 2000, Oregon was the 28th most populous state; in 2010, Oregon was 27th.|
|Population Increase from 2000 Census||409,675|
|Rank among 50 states – Oregon 27th in 2000 Census||28th|
|Black or African American||1.8%|
|American Indian or Alaska Native||3.7%|
|Hispanic or Latino||11.7%|
|Foreign born persons, percent, 2006-2010||9.7%|
|Language other than English spoken at home, pct age 5+, 2006-2010||14.3%|
|High school graduates, percent of persons age 25+, 2006-2010||88.6%|
|Bachelor’s degree or higher, pct of persons age 25+, 2006-2010||28.6%|
|Mean travel time to work (minutes), workers age 16+, 2006-2010||22.1|
|Housing units, 2010||1,675,562|
|Homeownership rate, 2006-2010||63.8%|
|Housing units in multi-unit structures, percent, 2006-2010||23.3%|
|Median value of owner-occupied housing units, 2006-2010||$252,600|
|Persons per household, 2006-2010||2.45|
|Per capita money income in past 12 months (2010 dollars) 2006-2010||$26,171|
|Median household income 2006-2010||$49,260|
|Persons below poverty level, percent, 2006-2010||14.0%|