SALEM, Ore. — Oregon voters may be deciding whether state legislators should have power to impeach the governor and other elected officials from the executive branch after the state House approved a resolution Tuesday sending a proposed constitutional amendment to the ballot in 2016.
The House Joint Resolution would give the House and Senate, with the approval of a supermajority, the ability to remove officials from office on the grounds of malfeasance, corruption or neglect of duty. If the measure makes it through the Legislature, it would then be referred to the 2016 general election ballot.
Oregon is the only state without a legislative impeachment process, a problem backers of the measure say most Oregonians aren’t even aware of.
Rep. Jodi Hack, a Salem Republican, proposed the change after former Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned amid influence-peddling allegations.
“The sad fact is, the people of Oregon are losing faith in their leaders and it’s up to us to build their trust,” Hack said.
Bill co-sponsor and House Majority Leader Val Hoyle told the House Committee on Rules in April the reason Oregon doesn’t have an impeachment process in place is because it already has other ways to hold elected officials accountable, such as recall and initiative methods.
According to the secretary of state’s office, an elected public official, such as the governor or the attorney general, can be recalled if opponents gather enough signatures to file a recall petition after they served at least six months of their current term. A state senator or representative can be recalled at any time.
The initiative process allows people to propose laws or amendments to the state constitution, such as Measure 91, which legalized recreational marijuana.
Hoyle said while those two procedures are “robust” in the state, the impeachment proposal would be the “third leg of the stool” that holds government accountable.
Though the measure drew bipartisan support from House lawmakers, Rep. Mitch Greenlick said he was against the resolution because he’s seen the “federal Congress make a mockery of the impeachment process.”
“We’ve seen the governor resign recently without the threat of impeachment. And I just think we should be very proud of our recall abilities in this state,” said Greenlick, a Portland Democrat.
House lawmakers passed the resolution 47-12. It now goes to the Senate.