Judge Rules In Favor of Special Session

A lawsuit to block the State Legislature's February special session from taking place was denied by a Marion County Judge. The case was brought by Republican State Senator Larry George.

From the Oregonian:

A Marion County Circuit Court judge refused to stop next week's special legislative session, even while criticizing legislators for how they handled setting it up.

Oregon's 90 legislators normally meet every two years, unless an emergency special session is called. But last year Democrats pushed through a proposal allowing them to come back in February as a way to test-drive yearly sessions.

Republican Sen. Larry George of Sherwood sued, saying no emergency exists to justify the off-year meeting.

In a ruling Monday, Judge Paul Lipscomb agreed that calling an emergency session a year in advance circumvented the constitutional limit on biennial meetings. But the judge also noted that lawmakers this month formally called the legislative special session.

The session was ruled constitutional because it was formally called just a week ago:

In a letter to members dated Jan. 18, Democrats Senate President Peter Courtney of Salem and House Speaker Jeff Merkley of Portland said emergencies include "specific budget and policy issues" identified by interim committees.

The letter "while couched in only very vague and general terms, is nevertheless sufficient to meet the basic threshold requirements of . . . the Oregon Constitution," Lipscomb wrote.

Courtney said he doesn't regret pushing legislation -- and being upfront with Oregonians -- last year. "We owe it to the people . . . to tell them what our game plan was," he said.

George said he will appeal. "There is a reason why we have a constitution."

Read the rest
. Discuss.

Update: The Oregon Supreme Court has announced that it will hear the case this Friday.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)

    While I appreciate the "stickin' to the rules" approach, I doubt there's any responsible person who doesn't know this was meant as an experiment. So just one more lesson from the experience: If rules don't fit the situation, you idiot, then change 'em!

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    Could this mean the possibility of a GOP walk out? Will we have to round them up for the "special session"?

  • jamie (unverified)

    "There is a reason why we have a constitution."

    Someone please advise Bush & Cheney of this little known fact.

  • LT (unverified)

    Q: "Could this mean the possibility of a GOP walk out? Will we have to round them up for the "special session"? "

    A: Republicans have published a (rather vague) agenda for the special session. Do they follow the lead of their agenda, or of a freshman senator?

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    I think the ruling and the decision to hold the special session are in keeping with the constitution, while George's lawsuit was politics-as-(used to be)-usual. The intention of the special sesssion isn't to address emergency issues, but rather to begin what will become an effort to change the constitution to allow annual sessions. If the Dems wanted to thwart the consititution, they could just switch to annual sessions and subvert the constitution by ginning up bogus "emergencies" to justify each off-year session. That's not their intention, as George well knows.

  • Robert G. Gourley (unverified)

    The intention of the special sesssion isn't to address emergency issues, but rather to begin what will become an effort to change the constitution to allow annual sessions.

    I'm not claiming to know the rules, and I'm too busy now to look it up, but IF the only conditions allowed for a special session is an emergency, then that might be the point. And since the experimental nature is to maybe end up changing the rules, then if the above is true, this may be considered better than changing the rules to allow another use of special sessions, then changing them again to allow annual sessions.

    There might be a legal challenge of anything they decide, requiring them to do it again in regular session.

    Oregon's constitution is such a mess, I wouldn't stop changing it for just this reason - but that's a whole other issue.

  • Randle McMurphy (unverified)

    I am a solid Democrat, but I am sympathetic to George's argument. It is a testament to the dilution of the Oregon Constitution that we feel so comfortable bending its plain language. Imagine if an analogous situation arose under the US Constitution- I hope we would disregard it so cavalierly.

    Although I think George has a reasonable claim, I question whether he presents a justiciable controversy. I doubt Judge Lipscomb would feel empowered to prohibit the legislature from convening if it followed proper procedures to call a special session.

  • Randle McMurphy (unverified)

    Should say "not disregard it so cavalierly."

  • iwish (unverified)

    Wish the trial lawyers would allow them to deal w/the tort cap loss during the special session

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    There's a whole lot of stuff they're not dealing with because the D leadership (including Jeff Merkley) decided that they would stick to "non-controversial" or less controversial items so they could have a "smooth session," in the belief, apparently, that such a thing is necessary to get voters to approve annual sessions.

    Personally I think this is a mistake.

    Senator George's lawsuit illustrates why. The Rs don't want to really work with the Ds.

    Reaching out can only work if there's someone reaching back. I hope Barack Obama understands that, as Chuck Butcher mentioned on another thread. Jeff Merkley's stance on the special session content lessens the value of his "experience in legislative compromise" argument in my eyes.

    If you lean over too far to reach out, you fall out of the boat.

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    I don't believe that any of Merkley's arguments have anything to do with "legislative compromise." There are other ways to "get things done" (which is one of his arguments) than by compromising.

    That said, I think there is a lot to be said for reaching out to the voters rather than reaching out to Republicans. I agree that legislative Republicans, all else being equal, aren't interested in working constructively with legislative Dems. But where they may feel that they can play games with legislative Dems I'd be willing to bet they WON'T feel that playing games with voters would be nearly as cute.

    This is what Obama was talking about a while back when his statements about Reagan were twisted into something entirely different. The reality is that Reagan knew how to communicate with the voters. Time after time he was faced with staunch opposition by Tip O'Neil and he simply bypassed the Speaker by appealing directly to the voters. Yes, it was double-talk and gross distortions of the truth. That's irrelevant here. What's relevant is that "compromise" isn't the only way to get things done in a legislature. And you can bet that Jeff Merkley understands that fact very well.

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    There will only be about three Republicans left in the ledge following the special session anyway. Apparently, they can't deal with minority status.

    Too fragile to have to deal, as Dems have for over a decade, they would rather leave the legislature thqan stay and fight for their ideals (whatever those might be).

    Looks like cowardice to me, which is of course the signifying trait of the bully.

    The current lawsuit, which they are keeping alive on appeal, fits nicely into that framework, as will all of the misleading petitions which will inevitably confront us this fall.

  • (Show?)


    Great laugh thanks to you. Can't you just see the R's sitting in Vancouver, WA refusing to meet in the special experimental legislative session.

  • (Show?)

    As bad as it sounds, I have to agree with Randle McMurphy about bending the plain language of the Constitution. I know Larry George well enough to know that he's a Republican libertarian, which means he's an enemy of government. In this case he's a stickler for a strict construction of the Constitution -- not that he respects the basic philosophy of government announced in the preamble to the US Constitution. So, my bet is that unless the state Supremes find some way to equivocate their way around the plain meaning, the special session will be blocked.

    I've already remarked to one friend in the legislature that the only way out of this likelihood is to call a special session. Now, I don't know whether the legislature can call itself into special session. But I do know that the governor can. And he should do so immediately in order to render moot Larry George's suit.

    One of the priority items on the legislative agenda would be to refer the matter of annual sessions to the people for a vote in November. While it is said that annual sessions allow the legislature to create more mischief ("the devil finds evil work for idle hands"), they also allow the state to maintain progress if in the right hands. Right now the legislature is in the right hands but it may not always be so.

  • Steve (unverified)
    <h2>Can someone explain to me the urgent and necessary things they are going ot do this session? That is besides finding some weak justification to make this a permanent annual session?</h2>
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