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Democrats Face Hurdles in Oregon Despite Supermajority

Democrats have won supermajorities in both the Oregon state Senate and House of Representatives — but a leading Democratic says he'll strive for bipartisanship.

Posted: Nov 7, 2018 4:13 PM
Updated: Nov 7, 2018 5:26 PM

By ANDREW SELSKY , Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The election gave Democrats a three-fifths supermajority in Oregon's Legislature with greater power to impose taxes, but the Senate president said Wednesday he'll still seek bipartisan support, noting that Republican lawmakers could doom revenue-raising bills if they sit out the votes.

Senate President Peter Courtney told The Associated Press he felt Oregon Democrats' celebrations Tuesday evening were too strong. Not only did they win supermajorities in the state House and Senate, but Democratic Gov. Kate Brown defeated her Republican challenger, a victory she called "a slam dunk."

"I worried last night because of the celebration. Somebody lost last night, and they lost pretty good," Courtney said in a telephone interview. "When you really beat someone and you really put them down, you know, you can train an anger and a hatred that's so violent, that they'll go to every extreme they can think of to stop you."

If Republicans lawmakers feel irrelevant, they could resort to sitting out votes, said Courtney, a Democrat who's the longest-serving legislator in Oregon history.

"It's a very difficult situation to have happen, you've got anarchy, you've got legislative anarchy," Courtney said.

Quorum rules say 20 senators must be on the Senate floor and 40 representatives on the House floor for votes to take place, Courtney said. Democrats fell short of those numbers even though they'll have at least 18 Senate seats and 36 House seats in the 2019 session.

House Speaker Tina Kotek said stronger Democratic majorities in the House and Senate will help Democrats focus on school funding, climate change and a housing crisis.

The Democrats achieved a supermajority in the House when Rachel Prusak, a nurse, beat Republican Rep. Julie Parrish to represent a district south of Portland. Parrish had backed a ballot measure — defeated by voters in January — that would have eliminated a new tax to provide health care for low-income Oregonians. Prusak ran for office "to protect the rights of her patients."

In southern Oregon, Democrat Jeff Golden, a river guide and public television production manager, edged Republican Jessica Gomez to take Republican Sen. Alan DeBoer's seat, giving Democrats a supermajority in the Senate. Gomez had been DeBoer's legislative aide.

Courtney said he was relieved voters defeated a measure on Tuesday that would have amended the state Constitution to require a legislative supermajority for bills that raise revenue through tax exemptions, deductions, credits or fees. Passage would have made it almost impossible to create a budget, Courtney said.

In the 2019 legislative session, which starts in January and runs to early July, Democrats will aim to pass a multibillion-dollar revenue measure to fund public education. Courtney said it would be a value added tax or a gross receipts tax, but not a sales tax.

Having a supermajority doesn't mean Democrats will act in unison to pass tax bills, said Christopher Shortell, associate professor of political science at Portland State University. For example, Golden, who will be sworn in along with other winners on Jan. 14, will have to be mindful he's from a fairly conservative district, Shortell said.

"Any time you're a Democrat in a seat that was held by a Republican ... if you come in and join the Democratic supermajority to enact some tax bill that's very unpopular with your constituents, that's a problem for you," Shortell said. "A supermajority does not guarantee that all those Democrats will join in."

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 40443

Reported Deaths: 635
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah8743155
Marion5590106
Washington546973
Umatilla329543
Clackamas299065
Lane221226
Malheur186634
Jackson15556
Deschutes107413
Yamhill95615
Linn76414
Polk63915
Jefferson5979
Morrow5426
Lincoln50913
Union4582
Benton4186
Klamath4013
Wasco33515
Douglas3314
Hood River2721
Josephine2583
Columbia2491
Clatsop2340
Coos2290
Baker1132
Crook872
Tillamook700
Curry561
Wallowa402
Lake340
Sherman180
Harney170
Gilliam110
Grant100
Wheeler10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 886939

Reported Deaths: 17167
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2904866944
Riverside650561275
San Bernardino609451065
Orange576351423
San Diego53263863
Kern33551413
Fresno30220430
Sacramento24811474
Santa Clara23591382
Alameda22932435
San Joaquin21436484
Contra Costa18273238
Stanislaus17403394
Tulare17317279
Ventura13930160
Imperial12610336
San Francisco11969137
Monterey1115884
San Mateo10918157
Santa Barbara9671119
Merced9386153
Sonoma9016134
Kings817383
Solano720574
Marin7036127
Madera492873
San Luis Obispo408032
Placer402355
Yolo309958
Butte302651
Santa Cruz272524
Napa190814
Sutter182112
Shasta178629
San Benito141114
El Dorado13024
Yuba128010
Mendocino111121
Tehama7938
Lassen7611
Lake67815
Glenn6473
Nevada5988
Humboldt5609
Colusa5486
Calaveras33917
Amador31316
Tuolumne2574
Inyo21815
Siskiyou1860
Del Norte1751
Mono1752
Mariposa782
Plumas610
Modoc270
Trinity250
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
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