PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Wednesday’s floor session was cut short when some Oregon Republican lawmakers walked out in protest amid calls for transparency and accountability — claiming bills under consideration are “unreadable” and called for Democratic Senate President Rob Wagner to be removed from his leadership position.
The walkout occurred Monday morning as bills on increased gun restrictions, as well as abortion and gender-affirming care were about to be heard.
“Laws are to be plainly written and easy to understand,” according to a release from the Senate Republican Office. “When the majority of bill summaries written demand a post-graduate degree to understand what the bills do, we disenfranchise Oregonians across the state and violate the law in the process. It’s apparent that there are those in state government who think they can skirt around the rules to facilitate their extreme agenda by any means necessary.”
According to the Oregon Senate Republican Leader’s office, Senate President Rob Wagner was “knowingly and willfully violating Senate Rules, Oregon statute, and the Oregon Constitution.” Wagner allegedly ruled bills being considered during Monday’s floor session were compliant even though Senate Republicans claim the bills were in violation of Oregon law.
Republican Senate Leader Tim Knopp, who represents Bend, placed blame for the bills on Wagner during a press conference on Wednesday, saying “the people of Oregon should be able to know what [Democrats] are actually doing and the only way to do that is to pump the brakes on the session and slow it down. And clearly, the driver in this case, President Wagner, is driving democracy into a ditch and probably off a cliff.”
The Republican House leader stated the walkout has “solid” support from the Republican caucus.
He added, “we cannot allow the Senate to operate in an unlawful and unconstitutional manner, nor can we allow this reckless behavior to continue. In an act of deep partisanship, Wagner ruled with total disregard for the integrity of the Senate to dictate his party’s extreme, unconstitutional agenda onto Oregonians at all costs. It is for these reasons we were compelled to take the unprecedented step of voting to remove Wagner from his role as Senate President, and why we are engaging in a constitutional protest today.”
Knopp called for every bill under consideration to return to its original sponsor so the Legislative Council can rewrite bill summaries. The Republican leader added that the bill must then be sent back through committees for reconsideration before hearings in the House or Senate.
In a statement, Gov. Tina Kotek said: “I urge the Senate to come together to fulfill their obligation to serve the public as soon as possible.”
Democratic state leaders are asking their Republican co-workers to return to work and cite Measure 113, which Oregon voters passed in 2022 disqualifying legislators from holding office the following term if they have 10 unexcused absences.
In a release, Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber said the Republican senators had “abandoned their jobs” and were “refusing to show up for work” ahead of a vote on bills that would protect reproductive rights and establish common sense gun laws.
Two major house bills are scheduled for their first Senate reading on Thursday: House Bill 2002 and House Bill 2005.
HB 2002 aims to guarantee access to abortion and gender-affirming care and protect healthcare providers from losing their licenses for providing abortions or gender-affirming care. It also would require Oregon’s Medicaid program, and private insurers to cover a range of reproductive and gender-related services.
HB 2005 would outlaw the sale and manufacturing of ghost guns is also scheduled for a reading.
This is the fifth time Senate Republicans have denied a quorum for a floor session since 2019, according to Lieber.
“Republicans are, once again, undermining our democracy and ignoring the people of Oregon,” said Lieber. Unfortunately, this isn’t anything new. Republicans have been using every trick in the book to derail and delay our legislative process since the first day of this session.”
Republican senators have pushed for every bill to be read in its entirety this session.
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