PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — This week marked the fifth in the Oregon Senate Republican walkout — the longest in Oregon history.
On Thursday, the senate president announced a fine for those lawmakers participating in the walkout. Meanwhile, some of those Republicans and an Independent held their own committee on accountability.
Oregonians from across the state showed up at the Capitol, not only urging senators to return to work, but also for their fellow lawmakers to hold their colleagues accountable. Many chanted “quorum” as they demanded lawmakers return and pass major legislation, now at a stalemate for a month.
During the newly-formed Joint Committee on Oversight and Accountability meeting at the Capitol Thursday, Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp called it a bipartisan committee of Republican and Independent members of the House and Senate, adding, they “hope (their) Democrat colleagues will join (them) at some point.”
Though not listed under the Oregon Legislature official committees, the Joint Committee on Oversight and Accountability tab on the Senate Republican Caucus page lists the Senate members as Sen. Tim Knopp (R), Sen. Dick Anderson (R), Sen. Brian Boquist (I), and “Senate Democrat Member” is listed three times. The House members are listed as Rep. Vikki Breese Iverson (R), Rep. Greg Smith (R), Rep. E. Werner Reschke (R), and “House Democrat Member” is listed three times.
During the meeting’s public comment period, following introductions by the six members present and a vote adopting the committee’s rules, many who spoke agreed on one thing — they want those in the walkout to return long before their previously announced return on June 25, the last day of the session.
Portland resident Brian Ettling says he voted for the approved Measure 113 to disqualify lawmakers from holding office again after 10 or more unexcused absences, with the hopes of preventing another walkout like this one.
“The Republican senators have chose not to vote on the floor and they’re hindering things, bills that need to be passed to prevent wildfires, for affordable housing,” said Ettling. “This committee meeting was about accountability and transparency and you can’t have good government unless you show up for work and do all the aspects of your job.”
According to Gov. Tina Kotek — who announced attempts this week to work things out with the Senate Republican Caucus for a quorum — this is the longest walkout in state history.
Traci Bean drove to Salem from Tillamook, saying that rural voters deserve to be represented, adding that her elected Sen. Suzanne Weber is one of those participating in the walkout.
“She’s not representing me, and she really, in my opinion, not representing the people that probably did vote for her,” said Bean. “I was flabbergasted when I heard there was a sudden need for a committee on accountability.”
On Thursday, lawmakers voted in favor of a bill to impose a $325 fine per day for each senate member racking up unexcused absences. Following the vote, Senate President Rob Wagner chastised those who have been absent for weeks.
“We’ve had people walk off the job from this floor for a month and they’ve taken compensation. On June 1st, today is payday. Folks just got paid for a month,” said Sen. Wagner. “Our absentee colleagues not showing up on the senate, on this floor, their constitutional requirement, they have not done the business for four weeks. Would any other worker, I ask you, get away with that?”
None during public testimony spoke in support of the walkout. As the committee meeting wrapped, there was no direct response to the public testimony pleas.
“We’re providing oversight and accountability for an unlawful, unconstitutional, uncompromising senate president and his Democrat colleagues in the Senate,” said Sen. Knopp. “We have said that we will be back so there’s nothing that is in jeopardy as it relates to the budget. We will move forward and hold that Democrat majority accountable when they’re unlawful and unconstitutional.”
The $325 fine will take effect starting Monday, June 5.