Oregon GOP-led Senate walkout is in its third day
The simmering feud between Oregon Senate Republicans and Democrats continued on Friday, as a Republican-led walkout prevented the upper chamber from meeting and passing bills for the third consecutive day.
First, though, Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, spoke to senators on the floor.
“The voters who sent us here each day expect us to show up for work, debate vigorously and get things done for the people of Oregon,” Wagner said.
Wagner said no senator – Republican or Democrat – will get an excused absence unless it’s for extraordinary circumstances.
“Let’s be clear: We are not sending process servers, and we’re not sending the state police,” Wagner said. “But we have a constitutional obligation to adjourn this session after 160 days, which is Sunday, June 25.”
Divisive bills governing firearms regulations, transgender health care and abortion are poised for Senate votes. Democratic Senate leaders say Republicans are trying to stymie a votes, including on House Bill 2002, a reproductive and gender-affirming health care measure.
However, Republican leaders say they’re protesting an unconstitutional process of passing bills that don’t meet legal requirements for readable language that the public can understand.
“We have to be accountable to the law … and apply the law to everything,” Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, told reporters afterwards.
Findley was present for the Senate meeting on Friday after two unexcused absences.
Asked about Wagner’s comments, Findley said: “They ring a little hollow because he doesn’t want to fix it. He just wants to ignore the problem that we are not complying with the law.”
The Legislature’s legal counsel has issued an opinion saying that it isn’t breaking the law. A 1979 state law requires bill summaries to score 60 or better on the Flesch readability test, a common standard for government documents. Republican senators have obtained a different legal opinion from an outside lawyer, former Republican state Rep. Michael McLane, that reached the opposite conclusion.
Sen. Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook; Rep. Emily McIntire, R-Eagle Point, and Oregon Right to Life also filed a lawsuit in Marion County Circuit Court earlier this week to block HB 2002 from a Senate vote over readability. A judge denied their request for an order to prevent a vote, but the case is ongoing with a status call scheduled for Wednesday.
Wagner, in his floor remarks, reminded senators about the ruling.
Senate Republicans walked out several times in 2019, 2020 and 2021, prompting voters last November to approve Measure 113 to block any senator with 10 or more unexcused absences from re-election. Four senators now have three unapproved absences and one has one unapproved absence.
The five senators with unexcused absences on Friday included four Republicans and Sen. Brian Boquist, I-Dallas. The four Republican senators are Sens. Daniel Bonham of The Dalles, Bill Hansell of Athena, Cedric Hayden of Fall Creek and Dennis Linthicum of Klamath Falls.
The seven excused absences included six Republicans and a Democratic lawmaker. One of those was Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, who had requested and received approval in April to attend the Central Oregon Builders Association’s spring home and garden show, which runs from Friday through Sunday. Knopp is the association’s executive vice president.
The Senate meets again at 9 a.m. Saturday. The session must end June 25.
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