Contributed by: Rob Bovett, AOC Legal Counsel
May 31, 2016
Unfunded Mandates to Be Tested in Court
In 1996, Oregon voters approved Ballot Measure 30 by a healthy margin (56.4% Yes to 43.6% No). Measure 30, a legislative referral that AOC and others worked hard to pass, requires the legislature to pay for new unfunded mandates on local governments. The Measure is now Section 15 of Article XI of the Oregon Constitution.
There are a number of thresholds, limitations, escape clauses, and ambiguities built into the language of Measure 30. However, it has proven useful over the years in convincing some key legislators to play fair with local government budgets when they enact new or expanded mandates. However, for the past 20 years the measure has never been tested, although it has been the subject of a few Attorney General opinions.
It now appears that the fist test of Measure 30 will occur in the Linn County Circuit Court. Nine counties, including, Linn, Douglas, Jefferson, Malheur, Polk, Sherman, Morrow, Wallowa, and Yamhill, have filed a declaratory judgement action against the State, seeking to have the court rule that the recently enacted mandatory sick-leave law, 2015 Senate Bill 454, constitutes a new unfunded mandate and “program” within the meaning of Measure 30, and therefore the plaintiff counties can refuse to implement the new law, in accordance with Measure 30. More to come.