Republican Senators in Oregon refuse to return to their jobs violating the state’s Constitution. This disgraceful conduct is irresponsible and dismisses their responsibility to the state’s voters. These legislators must represent their constituents’ “interests through the committee process and on the Senate floor.” Their constituents also “voted overwhelmingly for Measure 113, which established penalties for legislators who walk out on their jobs in Salem.”
On May 3, 2023, Senate Majority Leader Kate Leiber (D-Beaverton & SW Portland) said: “The people of Oregon aren’t fools. It is no coincidence that Republicans are employing these embarrassing antics as the Senate is about to vote on bills that protect reproductive health freedom and establish common sense gun safety laws.”
On the third day of the walkout, May 5, Senate President Rob Wagner announced they would start meeting daily, including the weekend. He declared no absence would be excused unless the Senators has an “extraordinary circumstance.”
Initially, the Republican Senators stated the reason for the walkout was the disputed bills did not meet a 1979 law that requires bill summaries to be written at an eighth-grade level. However, Minority Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) leveled with Senate leadership shortly after the walkout started. He said the Republicans also want Democrats to set aside their most radical measures.
Oregon Two-Thirds Quarum Rule
The current Republican Senator walkout is their fifth since 2019. The tactic exploits the Constitutional requirement for a two-thirds quorum to conduct business on the legislative floor. Oregon is one of the few states with a rule that allows the minority party to kill measures currently up for a vote.
On Nov. 8, 2022, voters overwhelmingly passed Measure 113 to prevent legislators from fleeing the Capitol. The Exclusion from Re-Election for Legislative Absenteeism Initiative essentially mandates attendance. As a result, Senators and Representatives cannot be absent from 10 legislative floor sessions without permission or excuse during any one legislative session. The law also said that missing 10 days would be “considered disorderly behavior.”
Republican Senators’ Complaints
GOP leadership met with Democratic leadership for the second consecutive day, according to a press release dated May 11, 2023. Minority Leader Knopp said Senate President Wagner agreed to refrain from holding floor sessions this Friday, Saturday, and Sunday.
He hopes these three days will give them “time to work out a legitimate agreement that will benefit all Oregonians.” Knopp also stated he would be available over the weekend to have these critical discussions.
Several sources say Republican Senators walked out because they opposed 20 so-called “hyperpartisan bills,” including high-profile bills that would protect abortion rights, transgender health care, and gun safety. However, their absence threatens hundreds of measures, including the state budget.
Written by Cathy Milne-Ware
Oregon Captial Chronicle: Oregon Senate Republican walkout hits day 5, Knopp acknowledges ‘partisan’ bills as factor; by Julia Shumway
Associated Press: Oregon GOP walkout threatens abortion, trans bills — and senators’ own careers; by Andres Selsky
OPB: Oregonians limit legislative walkouts as Measure 113 passes easily in unofficial returns; by Dirk VanderHart
Oregon Legislature: DO YOUR JOB: Senate Majority Leader Kate Leiber Calls on Republicans to Get Back to Work (Press Release)