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Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph v. State of Oregon

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Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph v. State of Oregon was a 1912 U.S. Supreme Court case that addressed whether Oregon’s relatively new (1902) initiative and referendum system violated the Guarantee Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The Court sidestepped the issue by holding that whether a state has a republican form of government is a political question not subject to judicial review.

A 1906 initiative was passed in Oregon that taxed certain classes of corporations, including telephone and telegraph companies. Subsequently, a corporation, the Pacific States Telephone & Telegraph Company, was assessed the tax, which they declined to pay. Litigation went forward when the state of Oregon sued the company for the back taxes it owed under the provisions of the 1906 initiative.

In 1907, Hartig v. City of Seattle, asking a similar question, was heard by the Washington Supreme Court, which reached a similar conclusion about that state's newly-enacted I&R laws.

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