Pamplin Media Group
Voter approval of a proposal to enact term limits for state lawmakers would wipe out nearly one-third of the Oregon Legislature membership, according to analysis by a lawyer for the state labor union director.
Harry B. Wilson, SEIU’s counsel, submitted the analysis on behalf of Matt Swanson, SEIU state council executive director, Monday to weigh on Initiative Petition 19 for the “Maintain a Citizen Legislature Act.”
The proposal by former GOP gubernatorial nominee Bud Pierce would prohibit state legislators from serving for more than eight years in a 12-year period.
If approved for the ballot and passed by voters in 2018, the act would take effect immediately and apply retroactively. That means incumbents with more than eight years in office would have to leave office as soon as election results were official. Incumbents who are reelected in 2018 would be allowed to serve out those terms, two years for representative and four years for senators, but they would be removed from office for several weeks between the election and the beginning of their new terms in January.
Wilson identified at least 25 lawmakers who would be affected by the term limits and wrote that the measure “could have profound consequences.”
The 20-member legislative Emergency Board, which allocates funds to agencies in between legislative sessions, would lose eight members.
House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Peter Courtney, D-Salem, the longest serving Senate president in the state’s history, would be among the 25 lawmakers who would have to leave office under the initiative.
The Speaker and Senate President are the last two officials from the gubernatorial line of succession.
“It would interrupt the operation of the state boards and commissions, much of which are led in party by representatives and senators,” Wilson wrote.
Swanson said the initiative is poorly written and would leave a potentially disruptive power vacuum.
Pierce, a Salem oncologist who has hinted at future political aspirations, acknowledged that the immediate effective date of the initiative could create short-term inconveniences at the Legislature. He said he chose to propose the measure as a statutory change, rather than a constitutional amendment, so that lawmakers could fix any flaws in the proposal after voter approval.
Term limits have worked well for state-level officials and in other states such as California, Pierce said.
“It’s not a panacea, but I think it is an important step,” Pierce said. “There is just too much power in the incumbency.”
That power hold keeps the state from solving some of its biggest problems, he said.
He will need at 88,184 signatures to win a place on the 2018 ballot.
In all, 16 Democrats and nine Republicans would be required to leave office under the proposal: Senate President Courtney, Speaker Kotek, Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford; Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Springfield; Rep. Phil Barnhart, D-Eugene; Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene; Rep. Andy Olson, R-Albany; Rep. Sherrie Sprenger, R-Scio; Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem; Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha; Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie; Rep. Deborah Boone, D-Cannon Beach; Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland; Rep. Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard; Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City; Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver; Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner; Rep. Huffman, R-The Dalles; Rep. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario; Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene; Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem; Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose; Sen. Ginny Burdick, D-Portland; Sen. Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin; and Sen. Rod Monroe, D-Portland.