Emergency
Oregon's Grassroots Confront Their State's "Depraved Political Class"
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June 14, 2016, 07:30 PM
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Immigration patriotism (aka "immigration in the national interest") triumphed at the polls in November 2014, when Oregon's electorate rescinded—by a 2 to 1 "No" vote, winning in 35 of the state's 36 counties—a law their government had enacted in May 2013 that would have allowed illegal aliens residing in the state to acquire Oregon driver's licenses.  (More precisely, these would have been "driver's cards," and they would even have sufficed to get their bearers through airport security, despite apologists' claims to the contrary.)  This thumping win for immigration sanity—by the voters in a thoroughly "blue" state—was led by Oregonians for Immigration Reform [OFIR], headed by the savvy and redoubtable Cynthia Kendoll.

Oregonians can undo pernicious pranks pulled by their beloved state legislators because enacted bills don't go into force until 90 days after the end of the legislative session in which they were passed.  If opposed citizens collect sufficient signatures from registered voters—amounting to 4% of the total vote in the last general election for governor—during those 90 days, the new law is suspended and put on the ballot in the next general election.  Then the whole electorate can vote the law up or down.  In a phone interview, Ms. Kendoll referred to this process as a "citizens' veto referendum," and you can find it described in Oregon's constitution—Article IV, Section 1(3)(a&b).

Doing such a referendum takes herculean effort, but the OFIR folks were up to it in 2013 and 2014, as Ms. Kendoll described to us attendees at the Social Contract Writers' Workshop (39-minute video here; VDARE.com transcript here) on October 12, 2014, less than a month before the critical vote.

Besides the massive work by OFIR and their allies, there was a crucial non-feature of the disputed driver's-cards-for-illegal-aliens legislation that made overturning it possible: The bill didn't contain an "emergency clause."  If it had included such a clause, it would have gone into force instantly upon its enactment, with not even a theoretical possibility for outraged citizens to kill it using a referendum.  (In that case, undoing the law would require enacting a repeal, either via the legislature or by citizens' initiative, the latter requiring an even bigger effort than a veto referendum.)

The absence of an emergency clause in the driver's card bill might simply have been an oversight, since according to another of OFIR's leaders, writing in the Portland Tribune on January 27, 2015:

“Seventy-one percent of the bills enacted into law during the 2012 session,” writes [State Senator Sen. Doug Whitsett, R-Klamath Falls], “had an emergency clause attached that [made] them effective immediately upon their passage.” The clause’s frequent intent? Whitsett contends: “To block the constitutionally guaranteed right of the people to refer the new law.”  [My View: Emergency clause abuses democracy, by Richard LaMountain]
And at least one prominent Oregon Democrat has noticed the promiscuous use of emergency clauses.  State Senator Betsy Johnson, from Scappoose, in a Daily Astorian op-ed on—"Scappoose"?!?!—May 21, 2015, wrote:
The Oregon Legislature is beginning to resemble a 9-1-1 call center. Almost everything is an emergency.

Increasingly these are the words you find in the House and Senate bills coming out of the Legislature: “An emergency is declared to exist, and this act takes effect on its passage.”

Any law with an emergency clause is protected from the people’s veto power. Voters cannot challenge it through the referendum process.

You might be surprised what constitutes an emergency. In this session so far, it includes bills like “banning the box,” which makes it unlawful for employers to ask job applicants to check a box if they’ve been convicted of a felony. Why would ex-felons’ job hunts constitute an emergency? There are many non-felons who endure extended job searches.

Or how about the “motor voter” law, HB 2177, which automatically registers licensed drivers to vote. What kind of an emergency exists that requires drivers to be automatically registered to vote?

Then there’s the recently approved gun law, SB 941, which requires licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks for private sales of legal firearms. (If you buy or sell on the black market, you’re exempt from this emergency.)

...

At the rate we’re going, all bills will be deemed emergency acts.

[Guest Column: Not everything is an emergency]

OFIR president Kendoll thinks the use of public-be-damned emergency clauses has actually ramped up in the wake of the rebuff legislators received on driver's cards.  If so, this presumably is an Oregon manifestation of behavior by what Mark Steyn referred to as "this country's depraved political class."

Whether or not Kendoll is correct on the point, other Oregonians who had long been frustrated by emergency-clause promiscuity set out in 2015 to throttle back on emergency-clause use.  They're now in the late stages of collecting signatures to qualify for November's ballot an initiative constitutional amendment that would greatly reduce the incidence of emergency clauses in closely-contested bills.  It would do this by requiring a 2/3 supermajority in both House and Senate for passage of most bills bearing emergency clauses.

Lead by Wilsonville attorney Eric Winters, the signature-gatherers for Initiative Petition 49, the "No More Fake Emergencies Act," have just received encouragement from a strongly supportive editorial in the state's leading newspaper (A chance for voters to fight Legislature's emergency-clause abuse, The Oregonian, June 13, 2016).

Registered Oregon voters who haven't yet signed the petition to put this initiative amendment on the ballot but would like to do so can download the form for a single signature (to be completed and mailed in) here [PDF], with instructions here.  And the official language of the amendment (i.e. what will appear on the November ballot if enough signatures are collected) is here [PDF].

These signatures will need to be in the mail to Eric Winters's team by about Monday, June 27 to be of use to the campaign.