Secretary of State Says Meaning of Measure 113 Was Clear to Voters
Ten senators who racked up 10 or more unexcused absences during the 2023 legislative session cannot seek re-election under terms of Measure 113, Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade ruled.
“It is clear voters intended Measure 113 to disqualify legislators from running for re-election” to a term immediately following the one in which they have 10 or more unexcused absences, Griffin-Valade said in a statement. “My decision honors the voters’ intent by enforcing the measure the way it was commonly understood when Oregonians added it to our state constitution.”
The senators, including Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp, gambled that the wording of Measure 113 was confusing. “We believe the plain language of Measure 113 allows for members to run again in 2024 elections,” Knopp said in a statement. “We disagree with the Secretary of State’s determination and will challenge it in court.”
“It appears the Democratic Attorney General and the Democratic Secretary of State are willing to cover for the Democratic Senate President Rob Wagner’s decision to ensure Measure 113 quashes the free speech of minority Senate Republicans as it was designed to do by political special interests,” Knopp added.
In addition to Knopp, other affected senators include Daniel Bonham of Madras, Lynn Findley of Vale, Bill Hansell of Athena, Cedric Hayden of Fall Creek, Dennis Linthicum of Klamath Falls, Art Robinson of Cave Junction, Kim Thatcher of Keizer, Suzanne Weber of Tillamook and Brian Boquist of Dallas.
Knopp, Boquist, Linthicum, Robinson and Findley would have stood for re-election next year. Hansell had announced he wouldn’t seek re-election in 2024. All 10 senators will serve in the short 2024 legislative session.
Background on Ruing, Challenge
The Secretary of State’s office asked Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum for legal advice on interpreting the wording of Measure 113 before Griffin-Valade was appointed to replace Shemia Fagan who resigned. “We found no suggestion prior to enactment that the Measure was understood or intended to allow absent legislators to serve an additional term,” the Department of Justice advised.
Measure 113 backers point to an explanatory statement approved by DOJ that said a “yes” vote would ensure truant lawmakers can’t hold their seat for “the term following the end of the legislator’s current term.” There was no organized opposition to Measure 113. The initiative to amend the Oregon Constitution passed by a 68 percent margin in the 2022 election.
Senate Republicans staged a six-week walkout during the 2023 legislative session to block votes on contentious issues such as abortion and gun regulation. Measure 113 was in response to Republican walkouts in previous sessions aimed at blocking legislation they opposed. Republicans defended walkouts as one of the few tactics available to them when in the minority.
Portland attorney John DiLorenzo represents the 10 senators and says he will file an appeal of the administrative rule issued by Griffin-Valade. The appeal, DiLorenzo explained, would challenge the ruling on First Amendment freedom of speech grounds.
“Our most likely course is first to determine what Measure 113 means” by seeking clarity from the courts, DiLorenzo said. A challenge to Measure 113’s constitutionality could come later.