Image for Voters to Decide on Disqualifying Lawmakers for Walkouts
Republican walkouts doomed an environmental bill in the 2019 legislative session and effectively torpedoed a 2020 legislative session, leaving majority Democrats without a quorum. The walkouts sparked an initiative drive by Democratically leaning labor unions to punish lawmakers who walk out by disqualifying them for re-election.

Fall Ballot May Include Gun Restriction Initiative

The first – and possibly only – initiative to make it to Oregon’s fall general election ballot will allow voters to decide whether unexcused absenteeism can disqualify a legislator from seeking re-election.

Backed by Oregon labor unions and dubbed by supporters as Legislative Accountability 1, the initiative comes in response to walkouts employed by Oregon legislative Republicans to deny majority Democrats a quorum to pass legislation. The tactic was employed to block an environmental measure in the 2019 legislative session and block bills in subsequent special sessions. When Democrats were in the minority, they employed a similar tactic to protest a redistricting bill in the 2001 session.

What makes the initiative even more engrossing is that it will appear on the same ballot as the two legislative antagonists involved in the walkouts who are running for governor – Republican Christine Drazan and Democrat Tina Kotek. As House Minority Leader, Drazan engineered the walkouts and Kotek, as House Speaker, dealt with the fallout.

The Secretary of State cleared the initiative for the ballot after finding it had 155,343 valid signatures, roughly 6,000 more than needed to qualify.

Union backers say polling indicates the initiative is popular across Oregon’s electorate. “Oregonians just understand it on its face,” Joe Baessler, associate director of AFSCME Council 75, predicted in an OPB interview earlier this year. “You don’t show up for work without a reason and you lose your job like anyone else. That makes it super popular and fair, and so it will pass.”

The disqualification would occur when a lawmaker racks up 10 or more unexcused absences. Presiding officers can excuse House and Senate members for medical or other valid reasons.

Two other measures, both referred to the ballot by the 2021 legislature, will appear on the ballot and deal respectively with the right to healthcare and slavery. The former would amend the Oregon Constitution to “ensure every Oregon resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, clinically appropriate and affordable health care as a fundamental right.” The second referral repeals leftover language in the Oregon Constitution that allows slavery or involuntary servitude as a criminal punishment.

You don’t show up for work without a reason and you lose your job like anyone else. That makes it super popular and fair, and so it will pass.

There are five proposed initiatives that have been cleared for signature-gathering. Only one – IP 17, the Reduction of Gun Violence Act – has a chance to meet the required number of signatures by today’s deadline to qualify for the November ballot. At the end of June, according to Secretary of State records, backers of IP 17 only needed 12,000 more valid signatures. They turned in more than 96,000 signatures in June, spurred by mass shootings in Buffalo, New York and Uvalde, Texas.

IP 17 would create an Oregon statute requiring government-issued permits to purchase or acquire guns. Photo ID, proof of approved gun safety training and longer waiting periods would be prerequisites to obtain a permit. A separate section bans the sale of high-capacity magazines in Oregon.

If IP 17 makes it to the fall ballot, the measure will face intense criticism from gun owners and the gun industry, as well as questions regarding its standing in the wake of the recent Supreme Court decision that invalidated a century-old New York law dealing with concealed handguns. A recent column by Tim Nesbitt offers insight into the potential debate over IP 17.