Tonkon Torp Wins Ballot Challenge at Oregon Supreme Court

Tonkon Torp’s Government Solutions Practice Group is celebrating the release of an Oregon Supreme Court opinion in favor of its client, Associated General Contractors (AGC). AGC, represented by Michael Salsgiver as a named petitioner, petitioned for additional review of the Attorney General’s certified ballot title for Initiative Petition 41 (IP 41). IP 41 is a proposed amendment to the Oregon constitution that, if passed, would require approval by the voters of nearby counties before a public body could assess a toll on any part of an Oregon highway, unless that toll was in operation before January 1, 2018.  

AGC, a long term Tonkon Torp client represented by partner Drew Hagedorn, engaged the Governmental Solutions Practice Group to submit comments on the AG’s draft ballot title on IP 41 after it was released on February 2. Attorneys Maureen McGee and Danny Newman led the work to research and draft the comments for submission on the February 16 deadline. As an initial victory, the AG accepted most of the changes requested by Tonkon Torp, which focused on clarifying the impact of the measure on existing law, first established in 2017, that requires the Oregon Transportation Commission to implement tolls on certain sections of I-205 and I-5. Since the certified language released on March 4 required additional refinement, Maureen and Danny quickly drafted and filed a petition for review by the Oregon Supreme Court on March 18. The Court ultimately referred the ballot title for IP 41 back to the Attorney General for further modification. In a significant win for AGC, the Court was persuaded by two arguments by Tonkon Torp and one by another petitioner. It otherwise upheld the changes made by the AG in response to Tonkon Torp’s comments at the initial phase of the ballot title review process. The AG made the required changes and on June 3, the Court accepted the final modified ballot title for IP 41.

The ability to spot and challenge issues in ballot titles within tightly prescribed ballot title-review timeframes is a focused area of expertise Tonkon Torp offers clients. Maureen brings particular insight to this work, having served in the Oregon Office of Legislative Counsel for nine years, most recently as a Senior Deputy Counsel. She is adept at navigating complex legislative matters, drafting laws, and embracing a collaborative approach to working with the AG’s office. Danny approaches ballot title challenges with a broad background of successful government solutions and litigation experience, including regulatory, investigations and enforcement, and compliance matters.

“Working on ballot measure challenges is exacting, and requires a nuanced approach and a deep understanding of how the Oregon constitution and its statutes are constructed,” explained Maureen. “Identifying specific wording that will accurately convey to voters the full impact of each point in a measure is a professional and intellectual exercise that we greatly enjoy. We are thrilled with this outcome for AGC.”