Case Study

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AAA Protects Oregon Consumers From Added Taxes

Oregon is one of the few states that uses a weight-mile tax rather than a diesel fuel tax on heavy trucking to help support and maintain its 86,000 miles of paved road. In 1999, the American Trucking Associations, Inc. (ATA) and its local Oregon affiliate wielded their considerable lobbying power to convince the state legislature to replace the weight-mile tax with a diesel fuel tax, along with an increase in registration costs for all Oregon vehicles and a 5 cent per gallon price hike at the pump for everyday commuters.

AAA Oregon/Idaho gathered over 80,000 signatures to challenge the new law by referendum, where it was soundly defeated with 88% of votes in opposition. Unable to force change through the legislature, the ATA pursued the matter through the courts, charging that an alternative flat-fee option for carriers of logs, sand and gravel and wood chips causes Oregon's heavy truck tax system to violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

AAA Oregon/Idaho called on Tonkon Torp to represent its members' interests alongside the State of Oregon at a two-week bench trial, which returned a verdict against the ATA. After a subsequent appeal to the Oregon Court of Appeals, the case made its way to the Oregon Supreme Court and a ruling is expected in November 2005. Tonkon Torp has represented AAA Oregon/Idaho since this case began its way through the trial, appeal and supreme courts of Oregon.

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