Oregon Secretary of State LaVonne Griffin-Valade announced Tuesday that after a review of voter-approved Measure 113, senators who had at least 10 unexcused absences in this year’s legislative walkout will not be able to file to run in 2024. That includes Sen. Tim Knopp, a Republican from Bend who intends to challenge this in court.
Measure 113 was approved by 68% of Oregon voters last November in response to repeated legislative walkouts.
The secretary of state’s office said Tuesday’s decision is similar to legal advice from the Oregon Department of Justice.
“It is clear voters intended Measure 113 to disqualify legislators from running for reelection if they had 10 or more unexcused absences in a legislative session,” Griffin-Valade said in a statement. “My decision honors the voters’ intent by enforcing the measure the way it was commonly understood when Oregonians added it to our state constitution.”
Of the 10 senators who refused to attend Senate floor sessions in an effort to block Democratic bills in this past session, six face reelection in 2024. That includes Knopp, the senate minority leader.
The senators who walked out argued that Measure 113 is flawed. While the public sector unions that pushed the measure intended it to block absent lawmakers from running for their next term, the language says lawmakers with at least 10 unexcused absences cannot hold office “for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.”
Since elections in Oregon are held before a lawmakers term is completed — not after — Republicans said the constitution plainly allows them to serve another term before penalties take effect. Knopp uses himself as an example, saying his term doesn’t technically end until January 2025 — two months after the election.
But in Tuesday’s announcement, Griffin-Valade argued that courts have emphasized that “the text of adopted ballot measures must be interpreted in a way that is consistent with the voters’ intent.” She says voters understood that the measure was meant to prohibit legislators from holding office in the next immediate term.
Knopp released a statement citing the “plain language” of Measure 113 and says Republicans plan to challenge the decision in court.
“And everybody says that the law matters and words matter. And if they do matter, those words that are in the Constitution don’t match with what was pitched to the people of Oregon through this measure by special interests,” Knopp told Central Oregon Daily News.
Knopp also claimed Griffin-Valade is providing cover for Senate President Rob Wagner, a Democrat. He said the Senate President is the sole person deciding whether absences are excused.
“After repeated unlawful and unconstitutional actions by President Rob Wagner and other Democrat leaders in the 2023 Session, Senate Republicans held them accountable by peacefully pausing the session to gain compliance with Senate Rules, Oregon Law, and the Oregon Constitution. In retaliation, Wagner was quick to impose unexcused absences on members who challenged his failed leadership,” Knopp said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.