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Oregon Supreme Court Strikes Property Law

October 05, 2002|From Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. — The Oregon Supreme Court on Friday struck down a voter-passed law that would have required state and local governments to pay compensation to property owners when government regulations reduced their property values.

The court said Measure 7, passed in November 2000, contained more than one proposed constitutional change and that each should have been voted on separately.

The court focused on a provision in the measure that said compensation wouldn't have to be paid if the government regulation at issue prohibited using the property to sell pornography.

In the unanimous ruling, the court said the measure affected free speech rights and separate constitutional property rights that require compensation--for example, when the government condemns land for public use.

Chief Justice Wallace Carson Jr.'s opinion said the measure contained too many changes to be rolled into one ballot proposal under the state Constitution's "separate vote" requirement.

Measure 7 "therefore is void in its entirety," Carson said.

"Once again the Supreme Court has spit in the face of Oregon voters," said Dave Hunnicutt, legal counsel for Oregonians in Action. The Supreme Court since 1998 has struck down three other measures on the same grounds.

Hunnicutt said his group will ask the 2003 Legislature to send a revised measure to voters. If that fails, he said, the organization will work to put a new measure on the ballot in 2004 by initiative petition.

The decision upheld Marion County Circuit Judge Paul Lipscomb. The measure never took effect because of court orders blocking it during the court reviews.

The measure also would have exempted governments from paying compensation claims when regulations prohibited using property for nude dancing, selling alcohol or operating a casino.

Foes claimed it could have had a devastating fiscal effect. State analysts estimated state and local governments could have faced paying $5.4 billion a year in claims for compensation. Measure 7 was approved by a 54-46 vote, with most of the support from rural areas.

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