PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – After more than three weeks since the Republican-led walkout in the Oregon legislature began — stalling dozens of bills and leaving 10 lawmakers ineligible for re-election next term — a member of the House is calling on senators to get back to work on legislation, including bills that would support members of the military and veterans.
Senate Republicans walked out in protest of bills introduced by Democrats, which the GOP claims are “unreadable.” The day the walkout began, on May 3, the Senate was slated to consider bills on reproductive rights, gender-affirming care and gun restrictions.
Oregon Republican Senate Leader Tim Knopp (R-Bend) told KOIN 6 News last week that his caucus plans to return to work by June 25 – the Constitutionally-mandated end of the legislative session — to work on the budget.
“We’ve been stressing this whole session about process, and we’ve been lodging complaints about violation of process and due process, and we just had enough of it at that point and we challenged the Senate President on this issue and he wanted to dismiss it and simply say, ‘We’re going to follow the rules we want to follow and the laws we want to follow because we have the votes.’ And we just didn’t think that was appropriate,” Knopp said of the decision to protest.
Oregon Representative Paul Evans (D-Monmouth), who is a veteran, says legislation supporting the military are among the bills stalled as some Republican and Independent senators do not show up to floor sessions.
“I spent a lot of my life in uniform and there’s a connection between those of us who serve, and one of the things that’s really important to all of us who take that oath of duty ahead of everything else. I’m not sure why the Senate Republicans have made the decisions they have, but I will tell you, if they don’t come back in time, there’s some very important pieces of legislation, that will hurt military families. I can’t speak for them, but I know I certainly couldn’t live with that,” Evans said.
Among the bills that would affect military families and veterans include HB 3421, which requires an official ceremony or event to be held by the state to commemorate Memorial Day or Veteran’s Day on the legal holiday.
Rep. Evans also pointed to HB 2865, which would increase military leave of absence from 15 to 21 days for National Guard training.
Another stalled bill, HB 2147 would require counties to designate a person to ensure interment of unclaimed cremated remains of veterans or survivors of a veteran.
While the walkout is in the Senate, Evans says the protest is impacting the legislative body as a whole.
“We try to approach the work that we can do. We have continued to have our committee meetings,” Evans said. “It is really a difference of philosophy. Our philosophy is that we’re here to do the job, we’re here to do as much work as we can, while we can. And our theory right now is to get everything accomplished that we can in the hopes that the Senate will perhaps find a way back to being a more equitable partner and making sure that we get all of the bills considered.”
Amid the walkout, 10 Republican and Independent lawmakers have accumulated 10 unexcused absences amid the walkout and are now ineligible for re-election next term under Measure 113 — which voters passed last year.
“I’m in public service because the folks that I served with that fell don’t have that opportunity to fight for their kids, so I’m fighting for their kids and for the future of our nation, our state and our communities. And what I would hope that the public would see is that really, it’s time for the political games to stop. It is not worthy of a democratic republic and that ultimately, we have far more in common than we have apart,” Evans said.
“Doing your duty means showing up, working together, making a stand, making your case and getting the people’s work done because ultimately, the men and women who have everything, gave us their trust and faith to continue the aspirations of our country,” Evans continued. “It is our job, especially those of us who asked to be elected and serve, to live up to that promise, to live up to the sacrifice in the service of the men and women who are no longer with us.”