Oregon's top court will decide whether lawmakers who walked out can pursue reelection

 December 16, 2023

The Supreme Court of Oregon is deciding whether a group of lawmakers who walked off the job ought to be allowed to pursue reelection. 

The Associated Press reports that the court's members heard oral arguments in the case on Thursday.

Per the outlet:

The Oregon Supreme Court heard oral arguments Thursday in a lawsuit filed by Republican state senators who boycotted the Legislature for a record six weeks earlier this year and want to run for reelection despite a voter-approved constitutional amendment aimed at limiting walkouts.

The walkout

According to the Oregon Statesman Journal, the walkout participants included Republican state Senators Tim Knopp, Daniel Bonham, Suzanne Weber, Dennis Linthicum, and Lynn Findley.

The outlet reports, "GOP lawmakers still purposefully missed scheduled floor votes in an attempt to halt legislation. Work stalled for six weeks, the longest walkout in state history."

The outlet later adds:

Republican leadership first told reporters absent lawmakers were protesting the violation of an obscure 1979 law requiring bill summaries be written clearly and at an eighth or ninth-grade reading level. Still, as the walkout continued, the motivation became clearer as Republicans protested various bills related to, among other things, abortion, gender-affirming care, and firearm regulation.

The anti-walkout bill

At issue in the case before the Oregon Supreme Court is a piece of legislation known as Measure 113.

The purpose of the bill, which was passed in 2022, is to prevent the type of walkouts described above.

The Journal reports:

The bill passed by a 2/3 majority in all 36 of Oregon's counties. The amendment to the state constitution states any lawmaker with 10 or more unexcused absences would be barred from holding legislative office “for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.”

During the 2023 legislative session, more than 10 Oregon senators had more than 10 unexcused absences. This includes the state congress members listed above - Knopp, Bonham, Weber, Linthicum, and Findley. These state congress members are now challenging Measure 113.

Will Measure 113 survive?

The answer, so far, is unclear.

The Associated Press reports, "Before the Oregon Supreme Court in the state capital of Salem, justices Thursday questioned the attorneys for both sides as they wrangled over the grammar and syntax of the language that was added to the state constitution after voters passed Measure 113."

The ultimate question before the justices is whether Measure 113 can prevent these lawmakers from seeking reelection in the future.

It is expected that the justices will reach a decision by March 2024.

" A free people [claim] their rights, as derived from the laws of nature."
Thomas Jefferson
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