Measure 49 clears a hurdle


A federal judge on Thursday refused to strike down what some critics say is a biased ballot title for an Oregon land use measure.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken came on a lawsuit by property rights advocates. They said the ballot title the Legislature put on Measure 49 this year is so misleading that it deprives Oregonians of their right to receive accurate information.

Aiken disagreed, though.

The state attorney general's office said the effect of Aiken's decision is that Measure 49 will appear, as written, on the Nov. 6 statewide ballot.

Measure 49 would curb development allowed under a law voters approved in 2004 that says governments must compensate property owners if land-use regulations reduce property value, or allow them to develop.

Oregon voters will decide on a rewrite that would allow some property owners to build up to three homes but curb larger subdivisions and industrial development allowed under the 2004 law known as Measure 37.

Supporters of the rewrite say the 2004 law is flawed because it opens the way to unbridled development of Oregon's farm and forest land.

Opponents of Measure 49 say it guts the original law.

Further, they say the ballot title approved by the Democratic-controlled Legislature is biased because it emphasizes the preservation of farm and forest land but soft-pedals new restrictions on development.

Ross Day of Oregonians in Action Legal Center, a property rights legal firm that filed the lawsuit, said activists would continue to press their challenge with a lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court.

If the ballot title isn't changed and Measure 49 is approved by voters, Day said, "then we will argue that it was an unfair election, and that the remedy would be to invalidate the election."

Backers of Measure 49 reject the assertion that the ballot title is biased.

"They have not proven in any way that even a single word in that ballot title is wrong," said Liz Kaufman of the Yes on 49 Campaign.

Meanwhile, a separate lawsuit is pending that seeks to block a statewide vote on the other measure that will be on Oregon's Nov. 6 ballot &

a cigarette tax increase to pay for children's health insurance.

Tobacco interests filed the lawsuit last week asserting that Measure 50, which would boost the cigarette tax by 84.5 cents a pack, violates the state constitution in several ways.

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