“During my tenure, I was adamant that the governor’s office and his closest advisers not blur the lines between state interest and other matters. My concern was seen as disloyalty. I was viewed as an outsider who did not understand the way that they did business. I was told that as long as things were good it did not matter whether things were right.”
So said a Kitzhbazer staffer to Nkenge Harmon Johnson after she objected to a process abuse. (The Oregonian, 11/3/14)
This isn’t just a case of a rogue Democratic Governors office. It’s endemic in the Oregon Democratic Leadership. If they think a policy is good, then abuse of process is irrelevant.
It’s now become John Oliver-esque with the laugh in your face abuse of the Constitutional emergency clause in regards to Oregon’s new minimum wage legislation.
Article IV, Section 28 of the Oregon Constitution provides that Legislation take effect no sooner than 90 days after the close of the Legislative Session, except in cases of “emergency”.
The reason for the delay is because the Oregon Constitution grants to “The People” the ability to challenge any law passed by the Legislature during that 90 days by gathering signatures and referring it to the people. If citizens gather about 60,000 signatures, the law is stayed and placed on the next general election ballot for an up or down vote.
If however, the State faces an impending emergency, then that 90 days can be waived by including an emergency clause. (And apparently 68% of all legislation now carries an emergency clause)
Emergency isn’t defined in the Constitution. So, just as Mitch McConnell can rightly say that there is no requirement in the US Constitution to allow a vote on an Obama appointment to the Supreme Court, Oregon Legislators can append an emergency clause to any legislation without explanation and negate the right of referral. Negating constitutional requirements or rights shouldn’t be taken so lightly perhaps. But I guess it’s politics. And that’s what the Democratic legislators did with the minimum wage bill.
With an emergency clause legislation takes effect immediatly, and if the people are to challenge it, the law will stay in place and the challengers need to go through a longer and more costly process of filing an initiative and petition.
But perhaps there was an emergency in this case?
Without an emergency clause, the minimum wage legislation would have taken effect 90 days after the 2016 legislative session ended, or June 5th, 2016l. If someone challenged the law within this time period by gathering signatures for a referral the minimum wage law would have been stayed until November, 5, 2016 and we’d vote on it.
But the Legislature believed that the wage crisis was an emergency and we had to raise the minimum wage immediately and we couldn’t wait 90 days. No, just kidding.
Because here’s the thing. The law doesn’t raise the Oregon minimum wage until July 1, 2016. That’s a full 115 days after the legislative session ends. So an increase in the minimum wage is such an emergency that we can’t wait 90 days, however we can wait 115 days?
And it’s even more ludicrous. Because the wage increase in July 2016 is only twenty five cents and The larger increases are phased in over 6 years. Some emergency. One that doesn’t start until 115 days after the session, then can be addressed over a 6 year period of time.
For those of us who believe in the spirit of due process, regardless of your position on the minimum wage, it’s beyond frustrating. Because it’s the process of law, and abiding by the spirit (substantive due process) and letter of that process (procedural dues process) that protects our constitutional rights and gives legitimacy to our government. When lawmakers intentionally violate or abuse due process they damage our democracy.
But as far as Oregon Democratic leaders are concerned I guess …as long as things are good it does not matter whether things are right.