Swanson v. Rosenblum

Summarized by:

  • Court: Oregon Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Ballot Titles
  • Date Filed: 11-09-2017
  • Case #: S065181
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Walters, J. for the Court en banc.
  • Full Text Opinion

Under Whitsett v. Kroger, the “subject matter” of a ballot measure for purposes of ORS 250.035(2)(a) is the “actual major effect” of the measure or, “if the measure has more than one major effect, all such effects.”

Swanson (Petitioner) sought review of the Attorney General’s ballot title for Initiative Petition 19 (IP 19), which, if adopted, would limit service by state legislators to no more than eight years in any twelve year-period and would apply retroactively to calculate years of current or prior service. On review, Petitioner asserted the ballot title caption did not comply with ORS 250.035(2)(a)’s requirement that ballot title captions reasonably identify the “subject matter” of the proposed measure, arguing the caption of IP 19 failed to inform voters that the measure would apply retroactively. The Attorney General contended the caption did not require further detail to reasonably identify the measure’s subject matter. For purposes of ORS 250.035(2)(a), the “subject matter” of a measure is the “actual major effect” of the measure or, “if the measure has more than one major effect, all such effects.” Whitsett v. Kroger, 348 Or 243, 247 (2010). Since Oregon does not currently restrict its legislators’ terms of service, the Supreme Court concluded the retroactive application of IP 19 would have an actual major effect on the legislature’s composition by immediately creating new term limits for current and prior legislators. Thus, the Court held IP 19’s retroactive application was “subject matter” required by ORS 250.035(2)(a) to be described in the ballot title caption. The ballot title is referred to the Attorney General for modification.

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