On May 30, Attorney John DiLorenzo Jr. of the Davis Wright Tremaine law firm sent a letter to Acting Secretary of State Cheryl Myers to seek a ruling on when Measure 113 takes effect. He represents State Sen. Tim Knopp, State Sen. Brian Boquist and the Oregon’s 13 Constitutional Defense Fund. (Oregon’s 13 is a reference to the senators who’ve denied Democrats a quorum to do business in Salem.)
The letter questions the assertion made by Senate President Rob Wagner on May 18 that “as of today, 10 senators have accrued 10 unexcused absences and have therefore disqualified themselves from running for reelection.”
The letter continues, “It is important to know exactly what it is that Measure 113 purports to do. The Measure required the following text to be added to Art. IV, Sec. 15 of the Oregon Constitution by Ballot Measure 113 in 2022:
“’Failure to attend, without permission or excuse, ten or more legislative floor sessions called to transact business during a regular or special legislative session 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.’ [emphasis added]”
The wording of the bolded text means that the affected senators are barred from holding office four years from the completion of their current terms. The letter explains why this is the case:
“Senators Knopp and Boquist were re-elected to the Senate in the 2020 general election. They assumed their current terms on January 14, 2021. Article IV, section 4 is clear that a Senator’s ‘term’ is not completed until 4 years from the second Monday in January following the election. This definition of ‘term’ is also tied to the prior election, making it even more clear that the term cannot be completed until after the next election. So, their current terms will not expire until January 14, 2025. The ‘election after the member’s current term is completed’ will not be held until November of 2028. So, it appears from the unambiguous text, that if they are to be disqualified from holding the office of Senator, it would be for the term that begins in January of 2029. This means that, contrary to Senate President Wagner’s declaration, they would be qualified for another term commencing in January of 2025 until January of 2029.”
Measure 113 could have amended the Oregon Constitution to require quorum to be a simple majority rather than the current two-thirds majority. Instead, Measure 113 was written to punish offending senators by denying them the ability to run for reelection. This strategy may backfire on Democrats because the four additional years would allow time for the constitutionality of Measure 113 to work its way through the courts.
Richard Emmons is the Publisher and Editor of the Josephine County Eagle.