According to the Oregon State Constitution, “No act shall take effect, until ninety days from the end of the session at which the same shall have been passed, except in case of emergency; which emergency shall be declared in the preamble, or in the body of the law.” Furthermore, “The people reserve to themselves the referendum power, which is to approve or reject at an election any Act, or part thereof, of the Legislative Assembly that does not become effective earlier than 90 days after the end of the session at which the Act is passed.”
So, the people have a referendum power, but the legislature can circumvent it by adding an emergency clause. How often is this done? It is difficult to find actual numbers, but many controversial bills include an emergency declaration:
- The “motor voter” law (HB 2177)
- The law requiring background checks for private sales of firearms (SB 941)
- A repeal of the sunset on provisions related to low carbon fuel standards (SB 324)
- Increasing the minimum wage (SB 1532)
Other fake emergencies should not have been controversial, but got the designation anyway:
- Reducing the Travel Information Council from 11 members to nine (SB 139)
- Setting the criteria for a minor political party for the 2018 election (SB 1501)
- A bill requiring grand jury proceedings to be tape-recorded (SB 822)
- Train teachers related to dyslexia (SB 612)
- Funding a new convention center hotel (SB 927)
- Conduct a study on how to increase mathematics majors (SB 1540)
- Develop statewide education plan to address chronic absences of students in public schools (HB 4002)
One solution is to require a two-thirds supermajority for emergency legislation. I support this effort and have signed the petition (as has candidate Bud Pierce). Until we have a Constitutional amendment, however, another solution is available.
According to the Oregon Constitution, “The Governor shall have power to veto … any provision in new bills declaring an emergency, without thereby affecting any other provision of such bill.” As governor I would exercise this veto authority for anything except a true emergency.