Petitioners file suit to block new initiative law

A group of chief petitioners is asking a Marion County judge to block a new initiative law from taking effect next month, saying it places unconstitutional limits on political expression.

The Oregon Legislature approved the new law, House Bill 2082, this year. It makes a number of changes in the initiative process, including adding requirements for signature-gatherers to register with the Secretary of State’s office and undergo training.

The suit alleges that the new law “demonstrates the state’s improper purpose of incrementally eliminating this type of political speech.”

Plaintiffs include Democracy Direct Inc., a Clackamas-based signature-gathering business, and Julia Allison of Salem, Glenn Pelikan and Shahriyar Smith of Portland, and Russ Walker of Keizer, who is western states director for the FreedomWorks anti-tax group and vice-chairman of the Oregon Republican Party’s Central Committee. All of the plaintiffs are collecting signatures in hopes of placing initiatives on the November 2008 ballot.

The Democrat-controlled House and Senate approved House Bill 2082 in late June, with all 38 votes against it coming from Republicans. Gov. Ted Kulongoski, a Democrat, then signed the bill into law on July 31.

Hubbard attorney Tyler D. Smith filed the suit Friday and asked a judge Tuesday for a preliminary injunction blocking the new law. The suit requests that various sections of the law be declared void and unenforceable because they violate the Oregon and United States Constitutions.