Kai Huschke

Secretary of State’s objections to petition denied; judge gives go ahead for signature collection


SALEM, OREGON: More than one year ago, the Oregon Secretary of State denied petition circulation of a state constitutional amendment that would secure the right of local community self-government. Last week, Judge Bennett of the Marion County Circuit Court ordered the state to prepare the initiative petition for circulation, dismissing the state’s claims that the petition did not meet procedural requirements. The initiative qualification would be for the November 2018 ballot.

The measure was drafted by Oregon residents and the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF).

“We were confident that our initiative was fully within the spirit of the initiative process and felt that the state was placing an undue burden on us with its ever expanding pre-election requirements,” said Rob Dickinson, petition coordinator for Oregonians for Community Rights. “This effort to have our right of local community self-government constitutionally recognized is long overdue, both for what we’ve suffered at the hands of  state government, as well as what we are seeing unfolding today at the federal level in the denial or attempted denial of basic rights.”

Oregon has a long history of state preemptive power used to deny local communities the ability to protect themselves, their communities, and nature from corporate harms. State preemption laws in Oregon include banning local control of GMOs, citizen votes on annexation, raising minimum wage, rent control, and community regulation or prohibition of toxic pesticide practices by industrialized agriculture and timber corporations. CELDF has been working with Oregon communities to advance their right of local community self-government since 2012, both at the local and state level.

A key question in the petition initiative case before Judge Bennett concerned whether there was an overreach of the state’s authority by interfering with the lawmaking powers of the people of Oregon. Judge Bennett wrote in his decision:

“It is tempting to delve into the language and meaning of IP 55 [Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment]…However, those are subjects for the Citizens of Oregon to consider and debate. It is not for a few members of the executive or judicial branch to chill public discourse…The Citizens of Oregon, in their legislative capacity, bear the burden of debating these issues and determining the course of action. Limiting, stopping, or redirecting discussion on IP 55 [Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment] through Executive Action or Judicial Opinion is contrary to, and chilling of, public political speech.”


“Though the delay has been frustrating, the timing couldn’t be more perfect for the Oregon community rights movement,” stated CELDF’s Northwest Organizer Kai Huschke. “May ballot measure campaigns are heating up in Coos and Lincoln counties as local residents square up against hundreds of thousands of corporate dollars on the very question of the right of local community self-government – who decides? The people or the corporate state?”

If adopted, Oregon’s Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment would secure the right of communities to advance legal protections for their health, safety, and welfare that are greater than those provided by the state. It would also allow for the restriction of corporate interference in such lawmaking. As well, it would mandate that these protections not lessen already instituted rights and protections recognized by state, federal, or international law.

Petitioners will need to collect about 125,000 valid signatures to qualify for the November 2018. It is unknown if the Secretary of State will appeal the decision.


Additional Information

Oregon’s Right of Local Community Self-Government amendment language can be found at For more information on the community rights movement in Oregon, visit


About CELDF — Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund

The Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund is a non-profit, public interest law firm providing free and affordable legal services to communities facing threats to their local environment, local agriculture, local economy, and quality of life. Its mission is to build sustainable communities by assisting people to assert their right to local self-government and the rights of nature. Visit


Additional Resources