328 P.2d 314 (Or. 1958), Wright v. Blue Mountain Hospital Dist.

Citation:328 P.2d 314, 214 Or. 141
Opinion Judge:WARNER, J.
Party Name:William C. WRIGHT, Evelyn Edmunson and Ernest Ricco, Appellants, v. BLUE MOUNTAIN HOSPITAL DISTRICT, a municipal corporation, and E. T. Stanbro, Charies Talbott, Sigmund Ellingson, Tom Negus and Francis Cole, as officers and directors thereof, Respondents.
Attorney:Michael S. Mogan, Canyon City, argued the cause and filed briefs for appellants. Howard A. Rankin, Portland, argued the cause for respondents. On the brief were Gordon Wilson, John Day, and Shuler, Sayre, Winfree & Rankin, Portland.
Case Date:July 23, 1958
Court:Supreme Court of Oregon

Page 314

328 P.2d 314 (Or. 1958)

214 Or. 141

William C. WRIGHT, Evelyn Edmunson and Ernest Ricco, Appellants,

v.

BLUE MOUNTAIN HOSPITAL DISTRICT, a municipal corporation,

and E. T. Stanbro, Charies Talbott, Sigmund

Ellingson, Tom Negus and Francis Cole,

as officers and directors

thereof, Respondents.

Supreme Court of Oregon.

July 23, 1958

Argued June 11, 1958.

Page 315

[214 Or. 143] Michael S. Mogan, Canyon City, argued the cause and filed briefs for appellants.

Howard A. Rankin, Portland, argued the cause for respondents. On the brief were Gordon Wilson, John Day, and Shuler, Sayre, Winfree & Rankin, Portland.

Before PERRY, C. J., and ROSSMAN, LUSK, WARNER, McALLISTER and SLOAN, JJ.

WARNER, Justice.

This is an action for a declaratory judgment, challenging the validity of the formation of the Blue Mountain Hospital District (called the District), a municipal corporation, in Grant county. From a decree declaring the District to be a valid and subsisting corporation, the plaintiff taxpayers appeal.

Following the procedures provided by Oregon Laws 1949, ch. 548 (now ORS 441.205 to 441.410, inclusive), an election was had on November 8, 1949, and the District was declared to be incorporated as of November 15, 1949, and has continuously functioned and operated a hospital facility in Grant county ever since the fiscal year 1950-51.

The parties have stipulated that the sole question presented for our resolution is whether the 90-day [214 Or. 144] residential provision for electors voting at the election on November 8, 1949, is in conflict with the Oregon Constitution.

This provision was established by Oregon Laws 1949, ch. 548, § 3, p. 880 and later codified as ORS 441.245 and as we will hereinafter refer to it. It reads:

'No person may vote at an election under ORS 441.230 unless he is an elector of this state and has resided in the district [the proposed hospital district] for a period of not less than 90 days next preceding the election.'

The justiciable controversy arises from the plaintiffs' contention that ORS 441.245 is unconstitutional, thereby invalidating the election of November, 1949. The defendants argue to the contrary.

There is always a presumption in favor of the constitutionality of a legislative enactment. Until the contrary is shown beyond a reasonable doubt, it is the duty of the courts to assume that the challenged statute is valid. City of Portland v. Goodwin, 187 Or. 409, 416, 210

Page 316

P.2d 577; State v. Anthony, 179 Or. 282, 301, 169 P.2d 587; Smallman v. Gladden, 206 Or. 262, 279, 291 P.2d 749; State v. Bailey, 115 Or. 428, 434, 236 P. 1053.

It is also a canon of statutory construction that if a legislative enactment can be given any reasonable construction consistent with its validity, such interpretation should be adopted. Gantenbein v. West, 74 Or. 334, 340, 144 P. 1171; Federal Cartridge Corp. v. Helstrom, 202 Or. 557, 565, 276 P.2d 720; City of Portland v. Goodwin, supra, 187 Or. at page 416, 210 P.2d 577.

Our constitution, like all other state constitutions, is not to be regarded as a grant of power, but rather a limitation upon the powers of the legislature. The people in adopting it, committed to the legislature the whole law making power of the state, which they did [214 Or. 145] not expressly or impliedly withhold. Plenary power in the legislature for all purposes of civil government is the rule and a prohibition to exercise a particular power is an exception. It is, therefore, competent for the legislature to enact any law not forbidden by the constitution or delegated to the federal government or prohibited by the Constitution of the United States. Jory v. Martin, 153 Or. 278, 284, 56 P.2d 1193, and cases there cited; Marr v. Fisher, 182 Or. 383, 387, 187 P.2d 966; State ex rel. Powers v. Welch, 198 Or. 670, 672, 259 P.2d 112. Such freedom of legislative action within such bounds is applicable to election laws. Loe v. Britting, 132 Or. 572, 574, 287 P. 74.

When we scan the constitution, we find only three sections that treat with the qualifications of voters. These are:

'Art. II, § 2: 'In all elections, not otherwise provided for by this constitution, every citizen of the United States, of the age of 21 years and upwards, who shall have resided in the state during the six months immediately preceding such election, and who shall be duly registered prior to such election in the manner provided by law, shall be entitled to vote, provided such citizen is able to read and write the English language. The legislature, or the people, through the initiative, may prescribe the means of testing the ability of such citizen to read and write the English language. Any...

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