Senator Doug Whitsett's Newsletter


Senator Doug Whitsett
R- Klamath Falls, District 28

Phone: 503-986-1728 900 Court St. NE, S-303, Salem, Oregon 97301
State Seal

Any law that is enacted by the Oregon Legislature becomes null and void if it is successfully referred to the people. Whenever enough signatures are gathered for referral the law is returned to the status of a bill. The bill is then voted upon by the people themselves to decide whether or not to enact the law.


Article IV section 28 of the Oregon Constitution states that no law will be enacted that takes effect before the 91st day after the end of the legislative session, unless an emergency clause is attached. The attachment of an emergency clause has the effect of advancing the date when the law becomes effective to less than the 91st day.


This is very important because Article IV section 1 (3) (a) states that any law may be referred to the people for a vote that does not become effective until after the 91st day following the end of the legislative session. This is designed to provide enough time for the people to successfully gather the required signatures. An emergency clause makes the law take effect before the 91st day; thereby, preventing the law from being referred to the people.


Each year it seems that more bills are introduced in the state legislature having an emergency clause attached. There are really only a few legitimate reasons for the inclusion of an emergency clause.


A bill may need to take effect sooner than the 91st day to address a budgetary adjustment that cannot wait, to make the new law coincide with other provisions of current law or perhaps to address a clear and present danger to the people. Otherwise, the emergency clause is attached to prevent the people from exercising their constitutional right to refer a new law to the people for a vote.


Article IX section 1 (a) of the Oregon Constitution prohibits the Legislature from “declaring an emergency” in any act regulating taxation or exemption from taxation. This feature was put into the Constitution to insure that no law is ever enacted regarding taxation that cannot be referred to a vote of the people that will pay the tax.

Unfortunately, nothing in the Constitution prevents the Legislature from using the emergency clause to prevent referral of laws that do not relate to taxation or exemptions.


I find it more than troubling that well more than half of all the bills introduced this year have emergency clauses attached. Several very controversial bills that will be before the Senate in the near future contain such emergency clauses.


For instance, HB 2800 authorizes the Columbia River Crossing project that has a price tag of about three billion five hundred million dollars. Inexplicably, this bill is also currently scheduled to be voted on in both chambers without benefit of even a hearing in the budget writing Ways and Means Committee.


HB 2787 is the tuition equity bill that provides for in-state tuition for certain alien students. Some people are concerned that this measure provides for minority preference if not racial preference. Others are hard pressed to understand why tuition preference should be offered to selected students who are not legal residents of the state.


HB 3200 would make it a class B felony to possess most semi-automatic rifles or handguns and some shotguns with a capacity for ten or more rounds of ammunition. The bill also appears to provide for the warrantless search for and seizure of semi-automatic weapons.


The emergency clauses will prohibit citizen review of these controversial Acts because they prevent referral to the people. Regrettably, this practice has become systemic in your Legislative process. It has simply become a common practice to deny the people of Oregon their constitutional right to review our work.


  One might ask why so many bills are being introduced and passed that explicitly prohibit citizen review. In my view, the answer is because the political elite actually believe that they are better informed and are more knowledgeable than the people who elected them. They appear to believe that they know what is best for Oregonians, regardless of what Oregonians think.


  Obviously, I do not share that view.


   The Oregon and United States constitutions are fundamentally different. The United States Constitution limits Congressional authority to only the powers specifically granted to it by the people. The Oregon Constitution is plenary in that it only limits the state Legislature by the powers specifically denied to it by the people.


It confers to the Legislature the authority to enact any law whose authority is not specifically denied. That is the primary reason why Oregon’s founders included citizen review of Legislative acts through the referral process.


 One could conclude that some Legislators are so arrogant as to impose their views by enacting laws with emergency clauses because they believe that the average Oregon voter is too ignorant to decide for themselves. What is certain is that the inclusion of the emergency clause insures that their views will never be challenged by citizen review unless the emergency clause is vetoed by the Governor.


Please remember, if we do not stand up for rural Oregon no one will.


Best Regards,




Please sign up to receive our newsletters!