DOJ: Oregon schools initiative petition is unconstitutional

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Secretary of State Dennis Richardson has rejected an initiative petition backed by the state's largest teachers union after a legal opinion stated that it doesn't pass legal muster.

Initiative Petition 26 does not comply with the single-subject rule in the Oregon Constitution, Steven Wolf, a state Department of Justice attorney, wrote in an opinion Monday.

That rule only allows ballot measures to make one change at a time.

The petition filed by the Oregon Education Association would require the Legislature to fund public education at a level consistent with what's known as the "Quality Education Model." Under that standard, the state would have allocated $9.97 billion — instead of $8.2 billion — for K-12 public schools in the 2017-19 state budget.

To make it easier to raise the extra money, the petition sought to change the Legislature's three-fifths majority requirement to raise taxes on businesses.

Democrats control the Oregon House and Senate, but lack a three-fifths majority in both chambers.

Wolf found that those two constitutional changes aren't closely related, as required to comply with the single-subject rule.

"The mandate to appropriate sufficient funds for public education," Wolf wrote, "has little to do with the requirement ... that bills for raising revenue be enacted only by a supermajority vote."

For the November 2018 election, petitioners must collect 117,578 valid signatures to send a proposed constitutional amendment to voters. Signature gathering can't begin until after an initiative is deemed legally valid.

John Larson, president of the Oregon Education Association, said in a statement to The Register-Guard that the union strongly disagrees with the ruling.

"Clearly, the need to sufficiently fund public education and the mechanism for doing so are inextricably linked, and so they should be considered together by voters," he said.

© 2017 KGW-TV


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