Stop abuse of emergency clauses

Letter date: 
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Letter publisher: 
The Register Guard
Letter author: 
Jerry Ritter
Letter body: 

The 2016 Oregon legislative session confirmed that voters got a “pig in a poke” when they approved even-year “short” sessions, just as some of us warned.

The 2016 session was also rife with back-room deals, pandering to special interests, deliberate efforts to keep the public in the dark, one-hour hearing notices and bogus “emergency” clauses.

Half the bills approved in the last two legislative sessions included emergency clauses. In very few cases were these justified. Instead, the emergency clause is now primarily a means to prevent voter oversight of legislative decisions. Under an emergency clause, a bill becomes law immediately upon the governor’s signature, leaving no opportunity for a referendum.

The use of the emergency clause increased markedly after voters overturned the legislature’s ill-conceived Senate Bill 833 (illegal immigrant driver cards) by a ratio of 2 to 1 in 2014. A legislative source reports that adding the clause is now the default protocol when bills are drafted by legislative counsel.

We can rein in this abuse. Oregon Initiative Petition 49, now in circulation, would require a two-thirds majority vote in both legislative chambers to approve any bill with an attached emergency clause. Certain exceptions for true emergencies (e.g., natural disasters) would be allowed.

Google “nofakeemergencies” to find a link to the petition. Signatures must be in by June 29. Let’s stop this phony nonsense: Please sign the petition and spread the word!