Right of Local Self-Government Initiative Vindicated

Court rules in favor of constitutional amendment effort, calls out State’s obstructionist actions.

CORVALLIS – The citizen-led petitioning initiative effort to amend the Oregon constitution to secure the Right of Local Community Self Government has been cleared by a Marion County circuit court judge to gather signatures for the November 2018 ballot.

The Oregon Secretary of State’s office denied petition circulation back in April 2016 on the claimed grounds that the initiative did not meet certain procedural requirements.  An oral hearing was held in front of Judge Bennett of the Marion County circuit court back in November 2016. The wrongful claims of the state denied the opportunity to move forward on the statewide citizen initiative for the November 2016 ballot.

A key question of the case also dealt with whether there was an overreach by the State in its authority to interfere with the lawmaking process, in this case the lawmaking powers of the people of Oregon.

Judge Bennett wrote in his decision that,

“It is tempting to delve into the language and meaning of IP 55 [Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment]…However, those are subjects for the Citizens of Oregon to consider and debate. It is not for a few members of the executive or judicial branch to chill public discourse…The Citizens of Oregon, in their legislative capacity, bear the burden of debating these issues and determining the course of action. Limiting, stopping, or redirecting discussion on IP 55 [Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment] through Executive Action or Judicial Opinion is contrary to, and chilling of, public political speech.”

Oregon’s Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment to the constitution would secure the  right of local communities to move forward protections, on the basis of health, safety, and welfare, to a higher degree than the state. The amendment would also limit the ability of corporations to override that right of lawmaking powers. The right of local community self-government would allow for the expansion of protections or the defense of existing protections if the state lessens such protections, but it would not allow communities to adopt laws that would lessen already instituted rights and protections recognized by state, federal, or international law.

Oregon has a long history of using state preemptive power, often at the behest of corporate interests, to put in place a ceiling and/or outright prohibition on the decision making powers by communities on critical issues. Recent and substantial preemptive laws have come against local control of GMOs, citizen votes on annexation, raising minimum wage, rent control, and toxic pesticide practices by industrialized agriculture and timber.

“We knew we were right and the State was wrong, and it feels good to be vindicated” says Rob Dickinson, petition coordinator for Oregonians for Community Rights. “This effort to have our right of local community self-government constitutionally recognized is long overdue both for what we’ve suffered here at the hands of the state government as well as what we are seeing unfolding today at the federal level where it comes to the rights of people and the natural environment.”

Dickinson goes on to say, “With the green light to gather signatures it’s time to put in the hard work to qualify the amendment for the ballot and then pass it!”

To qualify for the November 2018 ballot the petition initiative will need to collect about 125,000 valid signatures.

At the time of this announcement the state has not made it known if they will appeal the decision.

Thank you to Ann Kneeland for representing us and doing a magnificent job!!

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