On Monday(15 May 2023), a new constitutional amendment went into effect in Oregon, disqualifying from re-election two Republicans and an independent who participated in a boycott that has halted hundreds of bills in the Oregon Senate, including those on abortion and gender-affirming care.
Ten days have passed since the Republican-led walkout of the Democratic-controlled Senate began on May 3. However, some senators have rotated in and out of the boycott. The three senators in question have each racked up 10 or more unexcused absences from the Senate, making them unable to serve in the Legislature once their current mandates end.
Senate President Rob Wagner remarked from the platform, “The majority of Senate Republicans continue to walk off the job that the voters elected them to do, in which our Constitution compel them to attend.” His email states, “Three senators have now unnecessarily disqualified themselves from a subsequent term in the Legislature.”
There’s also a video in regard to how this prolonged boycott is affecting three senators from Oregon.
Republican Senate Leader Tim Knopp stated on Monday that he had promised Democratic leaders over the weekend that the Republicans would cease their boycott “to pass substantially bipartisan budgets and bills that are lawful and constitutional.”
The comprehensive abortion rights and gender-affirming care proposal was previously stated to be non-negotiable by Wagner. The Republican Party wants this option removed.
Knopp said that all 12 Republicans in the Senate boycotted on Monday “in solidarity” with the three lawmakers who could be disqualified if they vote against the resolution. He criticized the Democrats for what he called their “extreme” agenda.
“This is only the beginning of the fight,” Knopp stated.
Republicans Dennis Linthicum and Daniel Bonham and Independent Brian Boquist, a former Republican, are the three boycotting senators who have reached the 10-day restrictions for automatic disqualification.
In an effort to end the walkouts that have plagued the Legislature for years, Measure 113 was approved by nearly 70% of voters last November. They finally put it in the state constitution.
With the recent amendments to the Constitution, lawmakers who miss 10 or more floor sessions “shall be deemed disorderly behavior and shall disqualify the member from holding office as a senator or representative for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.”
The question of whether or not they qualify as candidates remains unanswered. The September 2024 election filing period could prove to be the litmus test.
As Secretary of State Office spokesman Ben Morris explained earlier, elections statutes have been construed by the courts to mean that the Elections Division cannot let a candidate on the ballot if it knows the candidate would not qualify for office.
However, the ballot measure 113 explanation states that a disqualified candidate “may run for office… and win, but cannot hold office.” In an email to supporters on Monday, Boquist expressed confidence that he would be eligible to run for office in 2024.
“The Elections Division has no authority on the absence clause of the Oregon Constitution,” Boquist said. “They will avoid it completely.” Bonham and Linthicum have been asked for comment on their disqualification, but they have yet to answer. Linthicum and Bonham’s seats will be up for election in 2024 and 2026, respectively.
On May 9, Bonham sent an email to constituents accusing Democrats of disregarding legislation from 1979 that mandated bill summaries be written at an eighth-grade level, a law that Republicans have revived this month.
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Bonham also criticized the abortion-protection bill for not requiring girls to inform their parents of their decision to have an abortion, which she saw as an affront to parents’ rights.
“I will not sit by and help move along the majority party’s extreme and unconstitutional agenda — especially with their complete and obvious dismissal of the law,” Bonham wrote.
Only 16 senators were present on Monday, four short of the requirement for a quorum. Wagner begged them to come back, and he was taken seriously. Two-thirds of the Oregon Senate or House members are required for a quorum.
“There is still time for senators to come back and do their job — 41 days before the end of the 2023 legislative session,” Wagner said. “We have very important work before us this session. We are here to fund our schools, support our seniors, repair our infrastructure and bridges, and make Oregon a great place to live and raise families.”
He emphasized to legislators the importance of passing a state budget for the next two years by the end of June.