Betting it all on a Constitutional Loophole

Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern has posted a good commentary about Oregon politics, “Oregon Republicans bet it all on a constitutional loophole. They lost big-time.

The topic? What happens to in-office politicians who attempt to block legislation or function by not being in attendance. For some years, Oregon suffered from politicians who decided to just not show up or be in attendance. The effect of 10 or so of the Oregon State Senators not being there over a number of days stalled legislation in the state senate.

Quite uppity of them, you think? If you are not going to do what I want, I will not be there and the rest of you and the voters for that matter can stuff it till you decide to play in “my-political-ballpark.” And of course, do what I want.

Each time the Republicans lacked the votes to defeat progressive proposals outright, they shut down all legislative business. Holding the statehouse hostage (this time) in retaliation against the Democrats whom voters elected to run the government. After several times of blocking legislation, citizenry was angry enough to pass a new referendum for a constitutional amendment. The referendum detail?

“A senator or representative who misses more than 10 floor sessions without an excuse may not run for reelection.”

It is pretty clear to me. The legislation was passed by the citizens and it changed the Oregon State Constitution. However . . .

Elected officials used the same tactics again, caused the Senate not to have a quorum, and were delaying legislation.

Does this sound familiar? Oregon State legislators are following similar but nonviolent tactics as to what the insurrectionist Federal Senators and Representatives were doing on January 6th. Except trump and people like Josh Hawley (senator) used citizens to do their bidding to violently disrupt the January 6 election confirmation. Senator Cruz and others were waiting to vote against the election results (you may have a different version). It still bothers me that none of these insurrectionists are taken to task for their conspiracy, etc.

In this case, the elected Oregon legislators just did not show up and the legislature did not have a quorum. They missed 10 floor sessions without an excuse. The result was their being disqualified for reelection in the “very next” election. It was contested in the Oregon Supreme Court. Then it became a matter of interpretation.

Using Slate’s Mark Joseph Stern article to explain he rest.

“Last year, 10 Republican state senators in Oregon walked out of the Legislature for six weeks to obstruct Democratic bills promoting reproductive rights, transgender equality, and gun safety. The GOP senators’ boycott paralyzed the chamber, stalling  hundreds of bills by preventing lawmakers from conducting any work. Their hardball tactic succeeded in the short term, forcing Democrats to water down their signature measures. On Thursday, however, it backfired badly: The Oregon Supreme Court  unanimously prohibited  all 10 senators from running for reelection, enforcing a constitutional provision designed to punish this kind of petulant legislative obstruction.”

“Oregon Republicans bet it all on a constitutional loophole. They lost big-time.”

Republicans noted the amendment bars absentee legislators from running “for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.” But while elections take place in November, the legislative term does not end until the following January. Republicans thus argued that “the election” after the “current term” means the election that’s four years after the next election. In Oregon, senators hold four-year terms. So according to the GOP’s gloss on the amendment, a senator elected in 2020 who walked out in 2023 is not disqualified from the next election (in 2024) but rather the election after that one (in 2028).

That is not the way Oregon’s Supreme Court read it.

“The Oregon Supreme Court acknowledged that the amendment’s language was poorly drafted, but sided with the secretary of state’s interpretation. Given this muddled text, the court looked to the history of the ballot measure to determine how voters understood it. And literally all the evidence points in one direction. The caption printed on every ballot said absentee legislators would be ‘disqualified from holding next term of office.’ A statement on the ballot explaining the result of a ‘yes’ vote said the disqualification would apply to the “term following current term of office.’ The official voters’ pamphlet provided by the state said the same thing, and added an ‘explanatory statement’ stating that the disqualification would bar ‘the legislator from holding office after the legislator’s current term ends.”

In light of this evidence, the court sided with the secretary of state’s interpretation of the amendment. It held that the phrase “after the member’s current term is completed” applies to “the term,” not “the election.” That means “the election” mentioned in the text is the next election, not the election after the next one. So all 10 senators who walked out in 2023 are forbidden from running for reelection. Only two of these senators planned to retire. Four were elected in 2020 and will be locked out of reelection this year—a group that includes Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp. The remaining four were elected in 2022 and will be locked out of reelection in 2026. (All may run again after sitting out one cycle.)

Too bad there is not a way to block legislators from continuously not voting on legislation.

“Oregon Republicans bet it all on a constitutional loophole. They lost big-time,”, Mark Joseph Stern

“So Long, Buh-Bye, Fare Thee Well …” | Homeless on the High Desert, Ten Bears. Ten Bears posted his Oregon commentary yesterday and I am posting mine today. Ten Bears is a resident of Oregon. Seems to be some issues in Oregon these days.