Secretary of State's office. (Caleb Wolf/Special to Salem Reporter)
Proponents of two clean-energy initiatives on Wednesday sued Secretary of State Bev Clarno to reverse her decision stopping the groups from advancing initiatives for the November election.
Renew Oregon, the coalition of clean energy advocacy groups pushing the initiatives, said Clarno’s rejection of two of their three proposed ballot measures was not based on precedent. It sued in Marion County Circuit Court.
The group noted in a statement that Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum and state Legislative Counsel last year questioned Clarno’s actions. Both disagreed with the positions Clarno and Deputy Secretary of State Rich Vial have taken in rejecting petitions for the fall election.
Eric Richardson, chief petitioner and executive director of the Eugene chapter of the NAACP, called the rejection of the two proposals an egregious abuse of power and said Clarno’s actions were unconstitutional.
“We are joining the many voices speaking out against the way the secretary of state is blocking access of citizens to the ballot,” he said.
Renew Oregon was seeking to put two measures before voters that would require all retail electricity in Oregon to be from carbon free sources by 2045 and mandate the state invest in carbon reduction measures. The proposals were seen as a backstop if legislators don’t address carbon reductions in the session convening in February.
The two initiatives included new standards for energy-related projects that required workers to get prevailing – or union level – wages and other benefits.
Clarno, a former Republican lawmaker selected in early 2019 to finish out the term of deceased Dennis Richardson, concluded the two measures violated state law that mandates an initiative can deal in only one subject.
The two initiatives met the threshold for sponsorship signatures and received draft ballot titles in November before being Clarno rejected them last month.
The third initiative in the package — a proposal to have Oregon’s greenhouse gas emissions 100 percent below 1990 levels by 2050 — is still in play and awaits an opinion from the Oregon Supreme Court before moving forward to the signature gathering process.
This is the second lawsuit filed against Clarno in the past year over the rejection of initiative petitions. Interests pushing for stricter water standards around timber harvests also claimed Clarbo acted outside the law in a case that she won in Marion County Court, but is pending an appeal.
“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,” said Teresa Hurst, executive director of Renew Oregon. “Everyone in Oregon should be concerned about this threat to our democracy.”
Contact reporter Sam Stites: [email protected] or 971-255-3480.