An advocacy leader, together with one of the chief petitioners for two clean energy initiatives filed a lawsuit Wednesday, Jan. 8, in Marion County Court against the Secretary of State, calling for the office to allow Initiative Petitioners (IP) 48 and 49 to move forward. Oregon Secretary of State Bev Clarno and Deputy Secretary of State Rich Vial rejected the measures last month.

In the complaint, Chief Petitioner Eric Richardson, executive director of NAACP Eugene/Springfield and Tera Hurst, executive director of Renew Oregon, ask the court to allow the initiatives to continue through the process of qualifying for the ballot in November 2020.

The lawsuit points out that the Secretary of State’s office provided no legal reasoning for rejecting the citizen’s petition and both the Oregon Attorney General and state Legislative Counsel strongly disagree with the positions Clarno and Vial have taken in rejecting petitions this election cycle, even publicly questioning the Secretary’s understanding of the law.

“We must not let this egregious abuse of power by Secretary of State Bev Clarno and Deputy Secretary Rich Vial continue,” Richardson said in a press release. “Their actions are unconstitutional and run counter to Oregon’s proud history of citizen access to the ballot through the initiative system. We are joining the many voices speaking out against the way the Secretary of State is blocking access of citizens to the ballot.”

IP’s 48 and 49 are statewide initiative petitions to require Oregon to produce all of its electricity using renewable energy and carbon-free sources by Jan. 1, 2045. As is precedent and good practice, standards for labor practices were included in the petition to ensure that jobs created during construction and other projects funded by passage of the petitions are quality jobs, something that the Secretary of State incorrectly claims merits rejection.

This is the second of such suits filed against the Oregon Secretary of State this year. Public records uncovered by The Oregonian show that with lack of institutional support for their rogue actions, the Secretary of State has had to hire a $700-an-hour private law firm – the same law firm that works for the corporate polluters and big timber companies that oppose the measures the Secretary has rejected.

“Secretary Clarno and Deputy Secretary Vial are wasting taxpayer money to protect the interests of the wealthy and powerful against the will of the people,” Hurst said in the release. “Everyone in Oregon should be concerned about this threat to our democracy.”

The suit goes before Marion County Court and the plaintiffs have requested an expedited review so their petitions can move forward as intended.

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