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SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Opponents of a $733 million tax increase aimed at corporations and wealthy Oregonians told a judge Thursday the process used to draft a pair of ballot titles is unconstitutional.
Their attorney, John DiLorenzo, asked Marion County Circuit Judge Paul Lipscomb for a preliminary injunction to prevent Oregon's secretary of state from using the pair of ballot titles for Measures 66 and 67, scheduled for a statewide vote on Jan. 26.
DiLorenzo, representing Oregonians Against Job-Killing Taxes, questioned whether the Legislature has the power to write ballot titles, saying that duty typically is performed by the attorney general.
He also argued that, even if the Legislature has the authority to draft the titles, it cannot delegate that authority to a legislative committee.
The Legislature approved the tax hikes earlier this year, saying they were needed to balance the budget and protect schools, public safety and social service programs.
But opponents gathered enough signatures to force a referendum vote.
DiLorenzo said the potential conflict was caused by the Legislature when it created a joint committee this year to draft ballot titles and explanatory statements for ballot measures.
He argued that drafting the ballot titles amounts to a legislative act and a committee by itself lacks constitutional authority to enact a law.
John Dunbar, who heads the special litigation unit for the state attorney general's office, argued the Legislature does have the authority to delegate drafting a ballot title or explanatory statement to a committee because it is up to voters to then decide whether to enact the measure, not the Legislature.
Dunbar told Lipscomb the request for a preliminary injunction should be denied because opponents can show no irreparable harm from letting the ballot titles stand as drafted.
He also said any delay at this point would disrupt the election.
Lipscomb said he would rule as quickly as possible.
A ruling on a separate lawsuit challenging the wording of the ballot titles and explanatory statements is expected soon from the Oregon Supreme Court.

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