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Judge clears way for special legislative session

Marion County court dismisses Sherwood senator's claim that session violates Constitution
by: Contributed photo, Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood

A Marion County circuit judge dismissed Monday a Sherwood

Republican state senator's lawsuit against Democratic leaders and ruled that legislators could hold a special session beginning next week.

Sen. Larry George sued state leaders in early January saying their plans for a February legislative session violated the state Constitution.

George represents state Senate District 13 that covers most of rural southern Washington County.

The Oregon Supreme Court agreed to review the decision later this week.

Oregon's Legislature usually meets in regular session every other year. During the 2007 session, Democratic state leaders, including Senate President Peter Courtney, adopted a plan to hold short sessions in off-years to take care of state business.

Switching to annual sessions would require voters to amend the state Constitution.

Legislators will go into a special session Feb. 4.

George's case against Courtney, House Speaker Jeff Merkley, Gov. Ted Kulongoski and Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, contended that the legislators' special session was not for emergency purposes but was designed to test voters' willingness for annual sessions - something George called "a direct assault on the Oregon Constitution.'

'Test driving annual sessions ... ignores the fact that Oregon voters have repeatedly rejected annual sessions,' George said Monday.

George said Lipscomb's decision confirmed his assertion that legislators, by planning an 'emergency' session so far in advance, circumvented the Constitution. Lipscomb ruled that if legislators had not declared a need for an emergency session on Jan. 18, he would have ruled in George's favor.

"This brief additional justification for an emergency session, while couched in only very vague and general terms, is nevertheless, sufficient to meet the basic threshold requirements of (the Oregon Constitution)," Lipscomb ruled.

'I am very happy with the court's ruling, which confirms my concerns,' George said. 'Clearly the Democratic leadership recognized the lawsuit was going to expose the unconstitutionality of (the special session) when they declared other, unnamed emergencies after our lawsuit was filed.'

George is hoping the state Supreme Court will reverse the decision.

'I look forward to the Oregon Supreme Court taking the next step by rejecting this last minute stunt when the case appears before them later this week,' George said.