Central Oregon DailyOregon Supreme Court to decide if GOP senators who boycotted can run...

Oregon Supreme Court to decide if GOP senators who boycotted can run again

Oregon Supreme Court to decide if GOP senators who boycotted can run again

Sen. Tim Knopp

SALEM, Ore. (AP) 鈥 The Oregon Supreme Court will decide whether Republican state senators who carried out a聽record-setting GOP walkout聽during the legislative session this year can run for reelection.

The decision, announced Tuesday, means the lawmakers should have clarity before the March 12 deadline to file for office,聽Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

The senators from the minority party are challenging a 2022 voter-approved constitutional amendment that bars state lawmakers from reelection after having 10 or more unexcused absences. Oregon voters overwhelmingly approved the ballot measure that created the amendment following Republican walkouts in the Legislature in 2019, 2020 and 2021.

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In an official explanatory statement, as well as in promotional materials and news coverage, the measure was touted as prohibiting lawmakers who stay away in order to block legislative action from seeking reelection.

That鈥檚 the meaning that state elections officials have chosen to adopt. Earlier this year, Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced that 10 senators would be prohibited from seeking reelection.

Nine Oregon Republicans and an independent clocked at least 10 absences during this year鈥檚 legislative session in order to block Democratic bills related to abortion, transgender health care and guns. The walkout聽prevented a quorum, holding up bills in the Democrat-led Senate for six weeks.

Five of those senators 鈥 Sens. Tim Knopp of Bend, Daniel Bonham, Suzanne Weber, Dennis Linthicum and Lynn Findley 鈥 have objected. In a legal challenge to Griffin-Valade鈥檚 ruling, they argue that the way the amendment is written means they can seek another term.

The constitutional amendment says a lawmaker is not allowed to run 鈥渇or the term following the election after the member鈥檚 current term is completed.鈥 Since a senator鈥檚 term ends in January while elections are held the previous November, they argue the penalty doesn鈥檛 take effect immediately, but instead, after they鈥檝e served another term.

The senators filed the challenge in the Oregon Court of Appeals but asked that it go directly to the state Supreme Court. State attorneys defending Griffin-Valade in the matter agreed.

Several state senators with at least 10 absences during the most recent legislative session have already filed candidacy papers with election authorities.

Statehouses around the nation in recent years have become ideological battlegrounds, including in聽Montana,聽Tennessee聽and Oregon, where the lawmakers鈥 walkout this year was the longest in state history.

Arguments in the Oregon case are scheduled to start Dec. 14.

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