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Findley forfeits re-election for skipping Senate sessions as Legislature stalls

Sen. Lynn Findley, engaging in what the Constitution declares to be “disorderly behavior,” appears to have cut short his career in the Oregon Senate.

Findley, the Vale Republican, on Thursday, May 18, chocked up his 10th unexcused absence from floor sessions of the Oregon Senate.

He has joined other Republican senators in skipping Senate action, leaving the chamber without enough senators to legally act on legislation.

Other senators reaching the constitutional limit are Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, a Bend Republican, independent Brian Boquist of Dallas and Republicans Daniel Bonham of The Dalles, Cedric Hayden of Fall Creek, Bill Hansell of Athena, Dennis Linthicum of Klamath Falls, Art Robinson of Cave Junction, Kim Thatcher of Keizer and Suzanne Weber of Tillamook.

Findley said by email Thursday that he couldn’t discuss the matter because he was in legislative committee meetings.

But in a note to constituents earlier this week, Findley said he was ready to sacrifice his Senate seat.

“My oath to uphold the constitution is more important to me than being re-elected,” he wrote.

Findley has insisted he won’t support passage of legislation that doesn’t meet an obscure state law established in 1979 but Findley and other Republicans only recently decided to obey. That law requires that the summary of a bill – usually a few sentences – must be written in language that an eighth grader can understand.

Findley said he’s guilty of pushing measures in the 2023 session that aren’t legal under that provision.

“I have not confirmed if all my bills comply with the readability law. However, it is safe to assume that most of them do not,” he wrote earlier this week.

He pointed the blame at legislative lawyers who are tasked by legislators to write the bills.

“I wrongly assumed that their work was done in full compliance with the law,” Findley wrote.

While skipping the floor sessions, Findley has continued to show up for sessions of committees on which he serves.

But Thursday’s absence triggers a provision of the Oregon Constitution. Under language approved by voters last November, Findley could not seek re-election in 2024. He was elected in 2020 and his seat would be next year.

Voters statewide overwhelmingly approved the new provision, favoring it 1,292,127 to 599,204. Malheur County voters also voted for it – 5,093-3,777. Findley didn’t respond to a question about how he voted on the ballot measure.

The provision states: “Failure to attend, without permission or excuse, ten or more legislative floor sessions called to transact business during a regular or special legislative session shall be deemed disorderly behavior and shall disqualify the member from holding office as a Senator or Representative for the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.”

The Voter’s Pamphlet covering the measure contained no arguments against the work-or-leave provision.

According to the state’s explanation, “A candidate may run for office in the next primary and general elections and win, but cannot hold office under this measure due to ten or more unexcused absences.”

Legislators can seek to be excused from floor sessions, and such absences don’t count against the limit. The House speaker and Senate president hold the power to excuse a legislator.

“Currently there is no right of appeal against those determinations and no requirement for the Senate President or House Speaker to formally explain their decision to declare a legislator’s absence as unexcused,” the Voter’s Pamphlet entry explained.

Findley served as Vale city manager before he was appointed state representative in 2018 to replace Cliff Bentz. He was then appointed to move to the Senate in January 2020 and won election to the seat that November.

His Senate district covers Baker, Crook, Grant, Harney, Lake, and Malheur counties and parts of Deschutes and Jefferson counties.​

Contact Editor Les Zaitz: [email protected].

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