House Joint Resolution (HJR) 31, which would amend the Oregon Constitution to add a process for impeachment of Executive officials, passed the House on Tuesday, 19 May, with an overwhelming majority of 47-12. Marion County Republican Rep. Vic Gilliam (Dist. 18) was the lone Republican to vote against the bill; Marion County Republican Rep. Sherrie Sprenger (Dist. 17), one of 36 co-sponsors, was excused from the floor session.
Marion County Republican Rep. Jodi Hack (Dist. 19), who raised the alarm that Oregon is the only state without a process for impeachment, is the Chief Sponsor of the joint resolution along with House Republican Leader Mike McLane (Dist. 55 - Powell Butte) and House Democrat Leader Val Hoyle (Dist. 14 - Eugene) as well as four Republican Senators. Interestingly, included among the Democrat co-sponsors of the bill were four who ended up voting against the bill on the floor: Barker, Barton, Smith, and Witt.
HJR 31 would allow the House of Representatives, upon a three-fifths majority vote, to impeach statewide executive branch officials on the grounds of malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty or other high crimes or misdemeanors. Should the House pass an impeachment resolution, the resolution would then proceed to the Senate for trial, where a conviction would require a two-thirds vote.
“We must be thoughtful but diligent in creating checks and balances that create accountability,” said Rep. Hack. “HJR 31 is thoughtful because it serves to join our fellow 49 states. HJR 31 is diligent because it shows that we as elected leaders are listening to the concerns of our constituents.”
HJR 31 now moves to the Senate for consideration. Should the Senate also approve the amendment, it will be referred to the 2016 general election ballot for voter approval or rejection. With no Senate Democrats listed as sponsors — Marion County Republicans Sen. Jackie Winters (Dist. 10), as Chief Sponsor, Sen. Brian Boquist (Dist. 12), and Sen. Kim Thatcher (Dist. 13) are included — the likelihood of its passage is less certain than it was in the House. On Thursday, 21 May, Senate President Peter Courtney (Dist. 11 - Salem) referred the bill to the Senate Committee on Rules.
“This resolution is not a weapon, but a tool for accountability of the executive branch,” Rep. Hack stressed. “It is constructed in a manner that provides for a difficult yet fair process of impeachment, and while we all hope that it is never needed, we need to have this tool available so that the integrity and duties of the executive branch are maintained.”