Four bills proposed to block future GOP walkouts

By Taxpayer Association of Oregon

Whereas the Legislature has been ignoring the 100+ days of Portland protest rioting and even holding hearings on legislation that would make it harder for law enforcement to stop a violent protest riot, at the same time the Legislature is having hearings on bills to block lawmakers from protesting using a walkout.

Here are the four bills up for a hearing on March 18 in the Rules Committee:

  • SB 261 Prohibits members of Legislative Assembly from soliciting or using contributions to pay fines or legal expenses, replace salary, defray expenses or otherwise compensate members for monetary losses incurred as result of unexcused absences from sessions of Legislative Assembly.
  • SB 262 Prohibits member of Legislative Assembly who is absent and unexcused when Legislative Assembly is in session from receiving salary, per diem or expense reimbursement, and imposes fine of $500 per day of unexcused absence.
  • SJR 3 Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to provide that member of Legislative Assembly who, without permission or excuse, does not attend 10 or more scheduled legislative floor sessions of Legislative Assembly is deemed to be engaging in disorderly behavior and is disqualified from holding office as Senator or Representative for term following member’s current term of office.
  • SJR 4 Proposes amendment to Oregon Constitution to modify portion of each house of Legislative Assembly needed to be in attendance for quorum necessary for house to conduct business.

Despite a Democrat super-majority in both chambers and representing the Governor’s Office, the party leaders have been frustrated at the use of the minority party, Republicans, who have used walk-out sot deny a quorum.

In Oregon, walkouts by parties have happened over the last 40 years to protest many issues, including new taxes, redistricting, requiring vaccinations, gun control, and even an award that was denied a Democrat lawmaker.

Despite Democrats crying foul at recent Republican walkouts, in 2001 Oregon House Democrats walked out themselves to deny a vote on legislative redistricting.  Then – Oregon Senate Democratic Leader Kate Brown supported the walkout.

Some other high-profile examples from across the country include:

2011, Wisconsin Senate Democrats walked out to prevent a vote on legislation to balance the state budget that was 3.6 billion in the hole.  It passed and requires public employees to contribute more to their retirement and health benefits.

2003, Democrat Texas lawmakers in the minority ran across the border to block a vote on Republican-drawn redistricting.

1988, Oregon Republican U.S. Senator Bob Packwood ignoring a quorum call to deny a vote on Senate campaign finance spending limits, was stalked down and hauled onto the Senate floor feet first by the U.S. Capitol’s Sergeant at Arms.

And in 1840, Abraham Lincoln jumped out of a window to deny his opponents in the Illinois State Legislature a quorum.

After a year of closed schools, businesses, and government offices being inaccessible to the public, lawmakers should be focusing on reopening our state as safely and quickly as possible — not on silencing their political opponents through petty fines and penalties.

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