SALEM, Ore. -- A judge Friday struck down a law that limited the terms of state legislators, a ruling that could revive the careers of 26 lawmakers who were barred from seeking re-election.
The case automatically will be reviewed by the state Supreme Court.
Marion County Judge Richard Barber ruled that the 1992 referendum contained too many constitutional changes for one measure, and the changes should have been handled separately.
Supporters had argued that no compelling reason existed to invalidate on technical grounds the vote of 1 million Oregonians who favored term limits.
The law limits state House members to three two-year terms and senators to two four-year terms, with a 12-year limit on overall legislative services.
If the state Supreme Court strikes down the law before the March 12 candidate filing deadline, 13 senators and 13 House members who were barred from seeking re-election would be eligible to run again.
Oregon House Speaker Mark Simmons, a leading critic of term limits, said Friday's ruling "places freedom of choice back into the hands of Oregon voters."
"They will be able to keep people around in the Legislature if they think they are doing a good job," Simmons said.
The Washington-based advocacy group U.S. Term Limits said it is prepared, if necessary, to push a new referendum to impose term limits on Oregon lawmakers.
"Term limits are not dead in Oregon," spokeswoman Stacie Rumenap said. "Ultimately, the voters of Oregon -- not the politicians or judges -- will have the final say about term limits."
Oregon is one of 19 states with term limits but the only one at present where opponents are actively pursuing legal action to throw out the restrictions, Rumenap said.
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