(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)