In the wake of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s resignation, Oregonians learned we are the only state without an impeachment clause in our Constitution. Our state representatives rightly responded by approving a measure to put a constitutional amendment on the ballot, allowing Oregon voters to enact an impeachment clause.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the ballot. Senate President Peter Courtney blocked the amendment, ruling that he would not bring it to the Senate floor for a vote.
Courtney’s stated excuse was that Oregon voters have the recourse of recalling a governor and that should be sufficient. (Translation: Shut up and eat it.)
Courtney’s rationale is evasive. His excuse for inaction allows legislators to escape responsibility for a governor whose actions warrant removal from office.
Here is the essential distinction between recalling a governor and impeaching him. Recall elections become re-election campaigns. Impeachment requires a legislative body to be specific about the chief executive’s malfeasance and to hold focused debate beyond the level of sound-bite politics.
As president of the Senate and a creature of the statehouse for almost three decades, Peter Courtney epitomizes Oregon’s one-party government. Shielding our governors from what is common in every other state is effectively a Democratic Governor Protection Act. It is good for the axis of longtime legislators, lobbyists and public employee unions who define our state’s one-party politics.
Considering the alarms raised by Kitzhaber’s untrustworthiness, it is appalling that Courtney is so tone deaf.