Ballot measure 77, the first statewide ballot measure we will look at, would amend the Oregon Constitution to grant the governor the ability to declare a catastrophic disaster, with assistance from the legislature. As it stands now, the governor has the statutory authority to declare a state of emergency and direct the necessary response to that emergency. If this measure passes, it would give the governor the constitutional authority to make a catastrophic disaster declaration and to be able to respond accordingly. This would include disasters caused by humans and ones caused by nature. The governor would be allowed to use previously allocated general fund and lottery funds for disaster response instead. He or she could also only use the provisions of the amendment once for the same disaster.
The legislature would have to meet, under emergency conditions if need be, at the direction of the governor. If the legislature is already in session or is to convene in under 30 days, the governor would not have to convene a session. If need be, the legislature would be allowed to meet somewhere other than the Capitol, including electronically. They could also conduct business with two-thirds of those able to attend instead of two-thirds of all members of the legislature, and pass bills with three-fifths of those able to attend instead of a majority of members. Bills would also be able to take effect immediately instead of the usual ninety days after adjournment.
It may require the legislature to suspend constitutional spending restrictions. This amendment would limit the time the governor can have disaster authority to 30 days after declaring the disaster unless the legislature lengthens or shortens the time frame, including any time needed to return to normal operations. If the time is extended, an end date must be set by the legislature. The legislature would also be granted permission to spend state highway funds from gas taxes, spend individual and corporate kickers if approved by two-thirds of attendees, exceed the state debt limit, spend lottery funds, and override funding of local mandate provisions. They would be bound to taking only those actions necessary for helping with response to and aiding with recovery from the disaster.
A catastrophic disaster is defined by this measure as one caused either by man or by nature that results in, “extraordinary levels of death, injury, property damage or disruption of daily life and severely affecting the population, infrastructure, environment, economy or government of Oregon.” This measure does not define “extraordinary levels” or “severely affecting”. These events include earthquakes, floods, tsunamis, volcanic eruptions, war, acts of terrorism, and public health emergencies.
Because the nature of the disaster cannot be known until it happens, it is impossible to estimate the economic impact of passing this measure.