Oregon Dem lawmakers say they will remove Republicans' ability to walk out

Democrats say they won't fine Republicans for the last walkout, but they will try to remove the ability for that tactic to be used again.

Posted: Aug 23, 2019 1:47 PM
Updated: Aug 23, 2019 2:31 PM

SALEM, Ore. — Democrats in the Oregon Senate won't hold Republican senators to the fines they accrued by walking out of the legislature, the majority party said in a statement issued on Friday. However, they will be working to remove the ability for a minority party to effectively stage a walkout ever again.

"Senate Democrats achieved historic results for Oregonians in the 2019 session, including passage of the Student Success Act, stabilizing Oregon’s housing crisis, paid family leave and criminal justice reform for juveniles," Senate Democrats said. "But twice during the 2019 Legislative Session, Senate Republicans abandoned their constitutional duties and hid in another state to deny the two-thirds quorum currently required to conduct business. During the second walkout, the Democratic Senators who remained at work moved to fine each absent senator $500 per day for not showing up to work."


READ: Oregon's Republican walkout ends, cap-and-trade bill 'dead'


Oregon law currently requires that lawmakers have a two-thirds quorum to pass a bill — meaning that Democrats do not hold enough seats to pass a bill without Republicans in attendance. However, the vast majority of states only require a "simple majority" for a bill to pass.

In a simple majority, lawmakers would only need 16 seats in the Senate and 31 in the House of Representatives to vote on a bill. The current two-thirds system requires 20 senators and 40 representatives to be present.

According to the Democrats' statement, Senate Majority Leader Gimmy Burdick (D-Portland) plans to introduce a constitutional amendment in the 2020 session that, if passed, would change Oregon to a simple majority system.

“Stopping the work of the people by denying a quorum is unconscionable and undemocratic. Senate Democrats will work to protect Oregon’s democracy by giving Oregonians and their representatives more tools to stop any future quorum denials,” Sen. Burdick said. “I hope our Republican colleagues now see that this is not a tactic that should ever be used again, and that they will work with us to prevent either party from walking off the job.”


READ: Senator Jeff Golden discusses 2019 legislative session, walkouts


Republican senators walked out of the legislature twice during the last session to deny Democrats a quorum. The first was over a tax on businesses earmarked for education funding. Republicans returned after several days when Democrats agreed to kill one bill that would have ended philosophical or religious exemptions on vaccines for school-aged children. The second was a gun control bill. Ultimately, the bill that triggered the walkout — dubbed the Student Success Act — passed.

A second walkout came in June when Democrats attempted to pass a cap-and-trade bill aimed at addressing climate change. Republican senators, who said that the bill would be disastrous for Oregon's timber industry, fled the state with the visible support of many rural Oregonians. The impasse quickly became heated, before Senate Democrats admitted that they did not have the votes to pass the controversial bill.

If the bill to change Oregon's quorum system materializes and passes both chambers, it will head to ballots in the 2020 General Election.

Senate Democrats said that the decision to not fine Republican senators for their truancy was "a difficult one, given the seriousness of the walkout." However, they wanted to avoid the inevitable litigation by taking a different tack.

“The 2019 Legislative Session is over,” Burdick said. “It’s time for us to focus on Oregon’s priorities for 2020 and beyond, and to ensure that we are able to deliver the results that Oregonians are counting on us to produce.”

This is a developing story, and NewsWatch 12 will be updating the article with more information as it comes in.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 195684

Reported Deaths: 2587
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah38714593
Washington25787233
Marion22229308
Clackamas17677214
Lane13128149
Jackson10953140
Deschutes918074
Umatilla823684
Linn501768
Klamath450664
Yamhill449676
Polk378853
Malheur353063
Josephine337071
Douglas329871
Benton312720
Jefferson222037
Coos208935
Columbia175929
Union145123
Lincoln138821
Wasco138128
Hood River119631
Crook113822
Morrow111116
Clatsop9948
Baker95914
Tillamook6523
Curry64610
Grant5236
Lake4557
Harney3488
Wallowa1855
Gilliam631
Sherman581
Wheeler321
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3768805

Reported Deaths: 62690
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles123741124115
Riverside2997934594
San Bernardino2971654724
San Diego2790983742
Orange2712515031
Santa Clara1190602096
Kern1092981376
Sacramento1049581691
Fresno1019571690
Alameda881481668
Ventura810331017
San Joaquin733101394
Contra Costa68976805
Stanislaus622491061
Tulare49830840
Monterey43662383
San Mateo42059570
San Francisco36795546
Santa Barbara34391459
Solano32974253
Merced31919461
Sonoma30067321
Imperial28504729
Kings23017246
Placer22688292
San Luis Obispo21308260
Madera16482242
Santa Cruz16264206
Marin14079227
Yolo13932211
Shasta12175226
Butte12095192
El Dorado10193113
Napa988782
Sutter9441113
Yuba628549
San Benito606863
Lassen570624
Tehama559063
Nevada475575
Tuolumne413967
Mendocino410849
Humboldt408042
Amador366647
Lake348543
Glenn240025
Siskiyou225525
Colusa223616
Calaveras213654
Inyo142838
Del Norte13988
Mono12844
Plumas7186
Modoc5014
Mariposa4507
Trinity4025
Sierra1120
Alpine880
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