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Emergency Clauses in the Oregon Constitution and Laws – Referendum Power Reserved to the People


“My View: Emergency clause abuses democracy,” Portland Tribune, 27 January 2015, by Richard F. LaMountain


Oregon Constitution

Art. 1, Section 1. Natural rights inherent in people. We declare that all men, when they form a social compact are equal in right: that all power is inherent in the people, and all free governments are founded on their authority, and instituted for their peace, safety, and happiness; and they have at all times a right to alter, reform, or abolish the government in such manner as they may think proper….

Article IV, Section 1. Legislative power; initiative and referendum. (1) The legislative power of the state, except for the initiative and referendum powers reserved to the people, is vested in a Legislative Assembly, consisting of a Senate and a House of Representatives….

Article IV, Section (3)(a) The people reserve to themselves the referendum power, which is to approve or reject at an election any Act, or part thereof, of the Legislative Assembly that does not become effective earlier than 90 days after the end of the session at which the Act is passed.

[Link to the Oregon Constitution PDF or Blue Book web version.]

The Glossary at the Oregon Legislature’s website defines:

Emergency Clause:

A statement added to the end of a measure that causes the Act to become effective before the accustomed date (on January 1 of the year after passage of the Act). An emergency clause either sets a specific date or is effective immediately, which means that the measure will take effect on the date it is signed into law.”


“The submission of a measure passed by the Legislature to a vote of the people. In Oregon, either the Legislature or citizens, by petition, may cause a measure passed by the Legislature to be placed on the ballot for a vote. In the case of a legislative referral, both houses of the Legislature must vote to refer the measure. Such referrals cannot be vetoed by the Governor. In the case of a citizen referendum, supporters of the referendum must obtain a specified number of signatures from registered voters. The number of signatures required is determined by a fixed percentage of the votes cast for all candidates for governor at the general election preceding the filing of the petition. Any change to the Oregon Constitution passed by the Legislature requires referral to voters. (See also: Initiative)

Excerpt from: “My View: Emergency clause abuses democracy,” Portland Tribune, 27 January 2015, by Richard F. LaMountain:

…. In Oregon’s political order, do state lawmakers recognize the people’s primacy — or game the system to impose their own?

Oregon’s constitution guarantees its citizens the right of referendum, to put laws passed by their Legislature to a public vote. In recent years, however, lawmakers have routinely saddled many laws with an “emergency clause,” which shields those laws from a referendum challenge and thereby nullifies the referendum right.

In the legislative session beginning Feb. 2, voters should demand an end to this cynical, undemocratic practice.

“No act shall take effect,” stipulates Oregon’s constitution, “until ninety days from the end of the session at which the same shall have been passed, except in case of emergency; which emergency shall be declared in … the law.” [Link to full Portland Tribune article.]

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