SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Court of Appeals on Monday asked the state’s highest court to decide whether Republican senators, a record-breaking GOP Anyone who goes on strike this year can run for re-election.
The senators are challenging a constitutional amendment approved by voters in 2022 that bars them from seeking re-election after 10 or more unexcused absences. Oregon voters last year overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure that brought the amendment forward after Republican walkouts in the Legislature in 2019, 2020 and 2021.
Statehouses across the country have become ideological battlegrounds in recent years, including in Montana, Tennessee and Oregon, where the lawmakers’ strike this year was the longest in the state’s history and the second-longest in the United States.
Several Oregon state senators with at least 10 absences have already filed candidacy papers with election officials, although Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced Aug. 8 that they are barred from running for legislative seats in the 2024 election.
“My decision honors the intent of voters by enforcing the measure as it was widely understood when Oregonians signed it into our state constitution,” Griffin-Valade said.
The minority senators sued Griffin-Valade in the Oregon Court of Appeals, seeking to force state officials to allow them to run for re-election. She and Oregon Department of Justice attorneys on the other side of the case jointly asked the appeals court last month to send the matter directly to the state Supreme Court.
The appeals court formally asked the Oregon Supreme Court to take the case on Monday, said Todd Sprague, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Justice. The Supreme Court has 20 days to grant or deny the request and can add up to 10 days to rule on the request, Sprague said.
There were nine Oregon Republicans and one independent who were absent at least 10 times during this year’s legislative session to block Democratic bills on abortion, transgender health care and gun rights. The strike a quorum preventedand held up bills in the Democratic-led Senate for six weeks.
As part of an agreement to end the strike in June, with less than a week left in the legislative session, Democrats agreed to change the language regarding parental notification of abortions. Democrats also agreed to drop several amendments to a gun law that would have raised the purchasing age for semi-automatic rifles from 18 to 21 and placed greater restrictions on concealed carry.
The terms of six of the senators who had at least 10 unexcused absences expire in January 2025, meaning they would be up for re-election next year. One of them, Senator Bill Hansell, has announced that he will retire at the end of his term.
Among those running for re-election is Republican Senate leader Tim Knopp, who led the walkout.
The senators insist that the way the amendment to the state constitution is written allows them to seek another term.
The constitutional amendment states that a lawmaker is not permitted to “run for the post-election term after the member’s current term has expired.” Since a senator’s term ends in January, while elections take place the previous November, they argue that the penalty does not take effect immediately, but only after another term expires.
“The clear language of Measure 113 allows me to run again,” Knopp said in a statement when he filed to run as a candidate on Sept. 14.
Ben Morris, the secretary of state’s spokesman, said all parties want the court to “rule quickly on Measure 113 and resolve this matter.”
The longest strike by state lawmakers in the United States dates back a century. In 1924, Republican senators in Rhode Island fled to Rutland, Massachusetts, and stayed away for six months, frustrating Democratic efforts to hold a popular referendum on whether to hold a constitutional convention.
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