Appeal from Circuit Court, Multnomah County. William M. Dale, Jr., Judge. No. 375-880.
Al J. Laue, Assistant Attorney General, Salem, argued the cause for appellants. With him on the brief were Lee Johnson, Attorney General, and John W. Osburn, Solicitor General, Salem.
Stanley A. Sitnick, Portland, argued the cause for respondents. With him on the brief was Legal Aid Service, Southeast Office, Portland.
Langtry, Judge. Schwab, Chief Judge, and Fort, Judge.
This case involves an attack on the validity of Oregon Public Welfare Division Rule 5.436. This rule became effective December 15, 1971. The only part pertinent to the issue before us creates the presumption that the income of a stepfather is an available resource of a child who is eligible for benefits under the Aid to Dependent Children (ADC) provisions of the Social Security Act of 1935 as amended. 42 USC § 601 et seq. (1971); ORS 418.035 to 418.175. The plaintiffs and the class they represent are all mothers receiving ADC benefits on behalf of children who would have their ADC benefits reduced or terminated by the operation of Rule 5.436. They brought suit for a declaratory judgment decreeing that Rule 5.436 is invalid because among other reasons its effect is contrary to a regulation of the Department of Health, Education and Welfare (HEW) governing the enactment of such a rule. 45 CFR § 233.90 (a) (1972).
The circuit court found that Rule 5.436 was invalid because the conditions of the federal regulation were not met. It issued an injunction preventing its enforcement by the defendants who are the Administrator of the Public Welfare Division and the Director of the Department of Human Resources of the State of Oregon. This appeal resulted.
The defendants concede that this court has the power to declare Rule 5.436 invalid if it is inconsistent with the requirements of the federal regulation. Rule 5.436 regulates the disbursement of federal funds and
is valid only if it meets the requirements of the federal statutes and regulations enacted pursuant to them. Cf. King v. Smith, 392 U.S. 309, 333, 88 S Ct 2128, 20 L Ed 2d 1118 (1968).
The central issue to be decided in this appeal is whether ORS 109.055*fn1 is a "* * * State law of general applicability which requires stepparents to support stepchildren to the same extend [sic] that natural or adoptive parents are required to support their children * * *." 45 CFR § 233.90(a) (1972). If ORS 109.055 is not such a law then Rule 5.436, which is conditioned upon ORS 109.055, is invalid.
The problem facing this court is not so much to interpret ORS 109.055 and Rule 5.436 as it is to determine what meaning should be given to the language of the federal regulation. A literal reading of the regulation would seem to require that all stepparents be legally obligated to support all of their stepchildren to the same extent as natural or adoptive parents. The Oregon statute (ORS 109.055) clearly does not meet this test because as its caption indicates it concerns "Relationship of child with certain stepparents." ORS 109.055 creates a legal obligation to support a stepchild in only a limited situation. We note that the requirements for creating the legal obligation of a
stepparent parallel very closely the requirements for a finding a child is dependent and thus eligible for ADC benefits. ORS 418.035. In upholding the validity of this HEW ...