One Independent and Two Republicans taking part in a boycott that has stalled hundreds of bills in the Oregon Senate were disqualified Monday from seeking reelection under a new constitutional amendment directed at stopping similar walkout. The bills include legislation on gender-affirming care and abortion.
The Republican-led walkout of the Democrat-dominated Senate has stretched on for 10 days, although some lawmakers participating in the walkout have rotated since the boycott started on May 3. Each disqualified senator accumulated 10 unexcused absences, which made them ineligible to serve in the legislature after their terms expire under ballot measure passed by voters overwhelmingly last year.
“The majority of Senate Republicans continue to walk off the job that the voters elected them to do, in which our Constitution compels them to attend,” said Rob Wagner, Senate President, from the Senate podium.
Wagner added in an email: “Three senators have now unnecessarily disqualified themselves from a subsequent term in the Legislature.”
The three senators participating in the boycott reached 10-day limits for automatic disqualification include Independent Brian Boquist and Republicans Daniel Bonham and Dennis Linthicum.
Ballot Measure 113 passed by almost 70% of voters last November as a means to put an end to walkouts plaguing the legislature for several years. The legislation is now included in the state Constitution.
Senators are disqualified from holding office as a representative or senator
The Constitution now states that missing 10 or more floor sessions “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.”
It is unclear if they are able to run for office as candidates.
The test could come when the filing window for candidates in the 2024 election opens in September.
Spokesman for the secretary of state’s office, Ben Morris, said earlier that courts have interpreted elections statutes to state the Elections Division is not able to allow a candidate on the ballot if it is aware the candidate won’t qualify for office.
In a Ballot Measure 113 explanatory statement, it says a disqualified candidate “may run for office…and win, but cannot hold office.”
In a Monday email, Boquist said he believes he’ll be allowed on the ballot if he offers to be a candidate in 2024.
“The Elections Division has not authority on the absence clause of the Oregon Constitution,” said Boquist. “They will avoid it completely.”
On Monday, there were only 16 senators present, which is four short of the quorum. All GOP senators and a lone independent stayed away. Under Oregon law, a quorum in the House or Senat is two-thirds of members being present.
“There is still time for senators to come back and do their job — 41 days before the end of the 2023 legislative session,” said Wagner. “We have very important work before us this session. WE are here to fund our schools, to support our seniors, to repair our infrastructure and our bridges, and make Oregon a great place to live and raise families.”
He reminded lawmakers the Legislature must approve the state budget, which is biennial, by the end of June.