Circumventing Constitution for an Emergency Experiment?

(Below is a letter signed by 11 Oregon lawmakers regarding annual sessions)

Circumventing Constitution for an Emergency Experiment?

150 years ago a group of 60 elected delegates met in Salem and drafted Oregon’s Constitution in just 33 days. They sent it to the ballot where it was approved by voters. Recently a majority of Oregon’s modern day delegates voted to circumvent the spirit and intent of our state constitution by adopting Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, the “Annual Sessions test.”

Article IV, Section 10 of the Oregon Constitution specifically states legislative sessions “shall be held biennially” – every two years. Only the people can change the Constitution if they believe the Legislature should convene at the State Capitol every year. Lawmakers should not usurp Oregonians’ constitutional right to vote on this important issue.

The Constitution allows the legislature to call a special session “in the event of an emergency”. SCR 1, approved by the both the Oregon House and Senate, declares an artificial emergency so we can conduct an experiment with annual sessions in February 2008. How do you schedule an emergency 13 months in advance?

There has been much talk this session about providing more public participation. SCR 1 does just the opposite by shutting the voters out of the process. We’re sacrificing the voting rights of Oregonians so politicians can try an experiment some say is nothing more than an expansion of power. If annual sessions are such a good idea why not send it to the ballot this spring and let the voters have the final say? That option is permitted in the State Constitution.

In addition to the constitutionality of this concept, legislators voting on SCR 1 were missing two critical pieces of information: the cost of annual sessions and a plan to measure the success. Members of the Legislature must be able to give an honest accounting to Oregonians of the success or failure of this “test”.

Some of us might support annual sessions, but not at the expense of the Constitution or the voters’ trust. At the beginning of the session we all raised our right hands and swore to uphold the Oregon Constitution. That is the main reason we could not support this proposal to bypass the rights of Oregon’s citizens. We have too much respect for the process, the institution, and the people of Oregon to move forward without a complete plan. Letting the voters decide is the right thing to do.


(The 11 members of the House of Representatives who voted “no” on SCR 1 on January 17, 2007)

Brian Boquist
State Representative
District 23

Tom Butler
State Representative
District 60

Linda Flores
State Representative
District 51

Victor Gilliam
State Representative
District 18

Fred Girod
State Representative
District 17

Bruce Hanna
State Representative
District 7

Bob Jenson
State Representative
District 58

Greg Smith
State Representative
District 57

Kim Thatcher
State Representative
District 25

Gene Whisnant
State Representative
District 53

George Gilman
State Representative
District 55

  • Jerry

    These “politicians” who want to circumvent the Oregon Constitution obviously have never read the Oregon Constituion. I am serious. I doubt it very much. Fools and losers they all are. I am not name calling – what else would you call them? Brave souls? Hardly. Pathetically incompetent would be more like it. I have lost all faith in state government here in Oregon. All faith. And, sadly, I am not alone. That is why they won’t refer anything and why they do everything in secret and stay cloistered in their offices like petty thieves. They are stealing our very freedom. If you think that is an overstatement you are wrong. How can these people be so misinformed, misguided, and so very, very haughty and contempuous??

  • DeVietro

    I usually stay away from “Slippery slope” arguments but this one may warrant it. So we have seen over a long history that Oregons lawmakers no longer have our intrests at heart, and now we see they are willing to “bend, break, and misuse” our constituion to do so. I am actually interested in the idea of yearly sessions because I at least want to see if they would work better however there is a legal process for such things and they did not follow it. It bothers me very much where this may lead, every action like this sets a valid legal precident and that can be very dangerous.

  • Captain_Anon

    I think how ineffectual and incompetant the legislature has been *IS* an emergency. their lack of will to confront difficult issues, often under the guise of “we don’t have enough time” is one reason why we should try the annual session. And, if it is annual, they have more ability to fix mistakes instead of waiting two years. Additionally, they will have to work on the budget yearly, which allows more flexability for our changing economy. if the economy starts to dive, they can work on it quciker. if it upswings, they can adjust accordingly. I think what, only six states have biannual legislatures? they can’t all be wrong.