SALEM, OR-Government officials throughout Oregon are waiting to see if the nation’s most far-reaching property right measure will go into effect tomorrow. Measure 7, approved by 53% of voters in November, requires “payment to landowner if government regulation reduces property value.” It’s supporters say it will cost government no more than $50 million to $100 million per year. It’s opponents put the annual impact at closer to $5.4 billion because they believe that several dozen types of laws–from building height limits to solid waste disposal restrictions–may qualify for Measure 7 claims.

A lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the measure was filed yesterday in Marion County Circuit Court by the League of Oregon Cities and others. Today, Circuit Judge Paul Lipscomb is scheduled to rule on a request for a preliminary injunction sought in a seperate lawsuit filed by the mayors of Salem and Jacksonville, and Audrey McCall, widow of former Gov. Tom McCall, who is credited with designing Oregon’s vaunted system of land-use and environmental rules.

For a preliminary injunction, lawyers must convince the judge that Measure 7 would cause “irreparable damage” if allowed to take effect, and that their lawsuit has a “substantial likelihood of success” at trial. Without an injunction, the measure goes into effect tomorrow, at which time the Oregon attorney general’s office–which has had some 15 lawyers working on the issue since its passage–will release an opinion on the legal scope and meaning of Measure 7. The report is meant to help guide cities and counties, many of which have already begin approving procedures for dealing with Measure 7 claims, and the fees they will charge to process the claims. The fees have ranged from a high of $3,500 in Fairview, a few miles east of Portland, to a low of $200 in Pendleton, a few hundred miles east of Portland.

The possibility of a “legislative fix” to Measure 7–which would define its scope and set statewide standards for implementation–was reportedly mentioned during a meeting last week of the Legislature’s Joint Interim Budget Committee. If the court challenges are unsuccessful, the legislature is expected to take up the matter when it meets in January.

All of the legal challenges to Measure 7 are technical in nature. One argument is that it contains two or more “substantive and not closely-related” changes to the constitution and therefore violates the constitution’s “single subject” rule for amendments. Another is that the measure itself does not contain the “full text” of the amendment, and a third is that the measure is not a proper amendment because it is advisory in nature.

Meanwhile, one corporation has already filed a claim, and several other individuals and corporations are preparing for or considering the option. A mining company denied an expansion permit last month filed a lawsuit against Jackson County and Jacksonville. The company is seeking $50 million in compensation under Measure 7.

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