PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – The Oregon Senate voted Thursday to exclude state Sen. Dallas Heard from the floor and state capitol until he complies with the indoor mask requirement.
The Roseburg Republican spoke to his fellow lawmakers when the Senate convened Thursday morning saying he refuses to submit to “unjust rules” and vowed to never again wear a mask in the state capitol building.
Oregon law currently requires masks to be worn inside at all times and Oregon OSHA is enforcing masks in workplaces. Gov. Kate Brown and the Oregon Health Authority announced Thursday the state will end indoor mask requirements for public indoor spaces and indoor schools on March 19, earlier than the state expected.
However, Heard said this isn’t soon enough. He expressed his frustration that in May 2021, Brown said she would lift the mask restrictions once 70% of Oregonians ages 16 and older were vaccinated against COVID-19. As of Thursday, 75.3% of Oregonians ages 18 and older have received two doses of the vaccine.
“In a time when virtually no legislative bodies, both foreign and domestic, are requiring masks during speech and debate, Oregon Democrats have seen fit to not only continue to expel the people of Oregon from their House and Senate chambers, but to also silence the voice of opposition through the tyranny of mob rule over the rights of the individual,” Heard wrote in a statement about the Senate’s decision.
When Heard announced his refusal, Senate President Peter Courtney asked him to comply and told him if he refused, he needed to remove himself from the Senate Chamber. Heard did not leave and instead, the Senate decided to debate the topic and then vote to see if Heard would be excluded.
Before the vote, Courtney asked Heard once again to change his mind and said there would be a gaping hole with his absence.
“I would ask that you stay with us, you stay in the family, brother. We’re not complete as an institution if you leave. We have a lot to do before we end this session,” Courtney said.
The Senate voted along party lines, 18-9, and the majority Democrats decided he needed to leave until he agreed to comply.
In his statement after the decision, Heard said he felt the Senate silenced his constituents, more than 140,000 Oregonians.
When Courtney addressed Heard in the Senate Chamber, he said Heard’s people would be represented by other members of the Senate, but they wouldn’t be the same as the person his district members chose to represent them.
In his statement, Heard said, “This goes to show that this is no longer about health. This has never been about protecting citizens. This is a clear demonstration of tyrannical power.”
Oregon Senate Democrats issued a statement in response to Heard’s refusal saying, “Oregonians are feeling worn out by the pandemic. As a state, we have all worked together to get through the crisis phase of COVID by working together to do our best. We are on our path back to normal. Leaders in our state have a responsibility to lead by example until every Oregonian is feeling the recovery. We expect everyone to follow the rule that the Senators voted to adopt in a democratic process.”
Heard can still participate in virtual committee hearings. However, he cannot cast a vote on anything voted on from the Senate floor. Prior to Thursday’s decision, Heard had not been voting on bills or attending Senate floor sessions. He said his lack of participation has been an act of rebellion against state mandates.
In the 2021 Oregon legislative session, Heard told KOIN 6 News he was voting “no” to all bills as an act of protest to the COVID-19 rule that was in place that prevented the public from attending lawmakers’ sessions and discussions at the state capitol.