Suit challenges Oregon anti-smoking measure
SALEM, Ore. â€” A Salem political activist and former lawyer filed a lawsuit yesterday challenging a new state law that bars local governments from passing anti-smoking measures that are tougher than state standards.
Greg Wasson contends the law passed by the Legislature last month violates constitutional home-rule powers enjoyed by all cities and those counties that have adopted home rule.
His suit seeks to have the statute declared invalid.
The statute, passed shortly before the Legislature adjourned July 7, was a compromise that ended a long struggle between anti-smoking advocates and the Oregon Restaurant Association.
The new law broadens state anti-smoking law to make smoking illegal in nearly all indoor workplaces, while prohibiting local governments from forbidding smoking in bars and taverns unless they had done so by July 1.
That allowed smoking bans to stand in Corvallis and Eugene, for example, but halted a similar move in Salem, where officials had been considering banning smoking in drinking places.
Wasson, who smokes, argues that the new law violates equal-protection guarantees under the state and federal constitutions.
"If people want to ban backyard burning in Salem, they can go get a local law passed," he said. "If I want to avoid secondhand smoke in a bar, I can't do that."
Hans Linde, a retired state Supreme Court justice who is considered an authority on constitutional law, said the high court has limited home-rule authority in some instances.
Key decisions, he said, have ruled that the constitution's home-rule amendments "are not concerned with substantive laws passed by the Legislature but with the form of government" adopted locally.