Sen. Doug Whitsett: Putting an end to fake emergencies

The ability of American citizens to petition their government to redress grievances is enshrined in our nation’s founding documents. The right to refer measures passed by the Oregon Legislative Assembly for the voters to decide is also established in our state constitution.

Article IV, Section 28 of the Oregon Constitution states that no law will be enacted that takes effect before the 91st day after the end of the legislative session, unless an emergency is declared. Bills raising revenue are prohibited from having an emergency clause.

Additionally, Article IV, Section 1 (3) (a) states any law may be referred to the people for a vote that does not become effective until after the 91st day following the end of the legislative session. That stipulation was deliberately designed to provide enough time for citizens to gather the signatures required to refer the law for a vote.

An emergency clause attached to a bill makes the law become effective immediately upon the signature of the governor. The clause makes the bill effective before the 91st day; thereby, effectively prohibiting its referral to the people.

Throughout my three terms of service in the Oregon Senate, I’ve written extensively about the legislative abuse of the emergency clause. It has long been my contention that emergency clauses are routinely attached to bills where no justifiable emergency exists. They are added to the bills for the express purpose of preventing their referral to the voters to decide.

For the past several legislative sessions, as many as two-thirds of all bills introduced have had emergency clauses attached. It even appears that Legislative Counsel may automatically attach an emergency clause when drafting a bill unless specifically requested to leave it off.

I introduced bills in the 2013 and 2015 regular legislative sessions to try to end this flagrant abuse. Both were thwarted by the majority party leadership. To my knowledge, no bill intended to make it more difficult to attach an emergency clause to any proposed legislation has even been allowed the courtesy of a public hearing.

The 2015 and 2016 legislative sessions saw multiple instances of controversial bills with emergency clauses attached, including the Low Carbon Fuel Standard, a divisive anti-business bill mandating government regulated retirement plans for private sector employees, the job-busting minimum wage increase and the so-called “Coal to Clean” bills.

My office received numerous e-mails and phone calls from constituents registering alarm about all of these bills. Their expressed concerns were both for the substance of the bills and for the emergency clauses prohibiting their referral. However, the legislative majority denied voters that choice through the use of the emergency clause.

Oregon citizens have taken it upon themselves to force the issue at the ballot box.Petitions are being circulated for Initiative Petition 49, which would amend Article IV, Section 28 of the Oregon Constitution to end emergency clause abuse. If enacted, the Oregon Constitution will require a two-thirds vote of the members of both the House and the Senate to affix an emergency clause to a bill. Passage of IP 49 would prohibit any act from taking effect until 90 days from the end of the legislative session, except in case of an actual emergency being declared by supermajorities of both chambers.

IP 49 specifically exempts bills passed in response to a disaster and bills needed to balance the state budget during a revenue shortfall.

Recent editorials in the Bend Bulletin and The Oregonian newspapers highlight many of the reasons voters should support IP 49. For more information about the measure, or to print and sign a petition, go to nofakeemergencies.com.

State Sen. Doug Whitsett represents Senate District 28 of Southern Oregon. Doug and his wife currently own and operate two small farms in the Klamath Basin, where they raise European Warmblood Horses for dressage and jumping.


Don Dix

From the article ... "It has long been my contention that emergency clauses are routinely attached to bills where no justifiable emergency exists. They are added to the bills for the express purpose of preventing their referral to the voters to decide."

The state government is dominated by Ds, and those Ds are completely beholden to the public employee unions. Any bill that further entrenches the union grip on state decisions and revenue is 'an emergency'. Same scenario if Portland government needs another handout.

The low carbon fuel standard is one of the biggest pieces of B.S. forced upon the Oregon citizens. It raises the COLA of for everyone that purchases any item, beginning with gas. And the effect on the environment will be nil. But it will put dollars in the state coffers, and the unions and Portland drool with the possibilities.

Remember this ... if the state throws an emergency clause on any legislation, chances are good that the state (read Ds) doesn't want the voters to decide it's fate (meaning likely defeated).

'Fake emergencies'??? Absolutely! But the real issue is the 'fake representation' of the will of the people! If one hasn't noticed, it's been happening for over 30 years ... wake up!

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