In what can only be described as a defensive posture akin to a tortoise pulling within its shell, Oregon Senate Democrat leaders Peter Courtney and Diane Rosenbaum are moving to kill House Joint Resolution (HJR) 31, Marion County Republicans Rep. Jodi Hack's bill to make impeachment of elected Oregon Executive branch officials possible. Needless to say, this is monumentally stupid in so many ways.
As reported here, the bill passed the Oregon House overwhelmingly 47-12, with only eleven Democrats (most of whom can be described as the most liberal) opposing the bill. HJR 31 has six other chief sponsors in addition to Rep. Hack, including House Democrat leader Rep. Val Hoyle (Eugene). Among the bill's 39 sponsors are Democrats Rep. Barton (who cast a no vote on the floor), Rep. Fagan, Rep. Frederick, Rep. Gallegos, Rep. Evans, Rep. Vega-Pederson, and Rep. Witt (who also voted no). The bill obviously has strong support from both parties.
Democrats even helped write the bill. Rep Hack received drafting help from then-Secretary of State Kate Brown's office as well as retired Oregon Supreme Court justices. They crafted a process that nearly exactly follows the U.S. Constitution: a bill of impeachment charging any of the five elected Executives — Governor, Secretary of State, Treasurer, Attorney General, Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor & Industries — with "malfeasance in office, corruption, neglect of duty, or other high crimes or misdemeanors" arises in the House where it must be approved by at least three-fifths (36) of the members. Upon approval, the bill passes to the Senate for trial where conviction requires the agreement of two-thirds (20) of the senators.
"This bipartisan resolution was designed to be a tool for accountability of the executive branch," said Rep. Hack. "I’m disappointed that Senators Courtney and Rosenbaum are refusing to let the Senate have a full, transparent discussion and vote on this measure. We will never restore trust or accountability in the executive branch by solely depending on a recall process that can take months to complete."
HJR 31 passed the House on 19 May and moved to the Senate where Sen. Courtney, as President, referred it to the Rules Committee, chaired by Sen. Rosenbaum. The chair has since just sat on the bill, refusing to schedule a hearing and/or work session to move the measure to the floor for a vote. With the 160-day constitutional limit to be reached on Sunday, 11 July, time is quickly running out for the measure.
But even passage by the Senate does not end the story because — and this is the biggest reason killing the measure is so ludicrous — HJR 31 is a proposal for a constitutional amendment that would go on the 2016 general election ballot. Senators Courtney and Rosenbaum need to overcome their bunker mentality, move this resolution out of committee, and allow the Senate to refer it to the people of Oregon. If they are so opposed to instituting this legitimate check on the Executive branch so as to bring it more into balance with the legislative and judicial branches, let them make their arguments to all of us.
Marion County Republicans can step up and apply pressure in any way possible on the offices of the Senate President and the members of the Senate Rules Committee. Constituents of Sen. Brian Boquist (Dist. 12) in the southern portion of the county around Jefferson are especially vital in this action since he is a member of the committee.