SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Republican and Democratic leaders in the Oregon Legislature met Thursday to try to resolve a boycott by GOP senators that has frozen Senate proceedings, with a deadline looming that threatens to disqualify boycotters from being reelected.
The boycott has delayed action by the majority Democrats on gun safety, abortion rights and gender-affirming health care bills, among a lot of other legislation.
Thursday marked the ninth day of the walkout, preventing a quorum of the Senate, with two-thirds of members required to be present for the chamber to debate and vote on bills. Republicans have used the tactic in previous years.
This time, a constitutional amendment — approved overwhelmingly in a ballot measure last November — disqualifies lawmakers with 10 unexcused absences from reelection. Friday would mark the 10th boycott day for some of the senators. In order to give both sides time to come to a deal, planned Senate sessions for Friday, Saturday and Sunday were cancelled.
“It is my hope that this will give us time to work out a legitimate agreement that will benefit all Oregonians,” Senate Republican Minority Leader Tim Knopp said in a statement.
Republicans in the Oregon Senate insist their stayaway is due to an obscure law that requires bill summaries to be understandable at the eighth grade level. Knopp has said Republicans also want Democrats to set aside “their most extreme bills,” his office said Monday.
Senate President Rob Wagner has said House Bill 2002, on abortion rights and gender-affirming care, is not negotiable. On Thursday, after a roll call again showed a lack of a quorum, Wagner declared the session adjourned until Monday, and wished everyone a happy Mother's Day.
The walkout exploits Oregon’s requirement for a two-thirds quorum to conduct legislative business — a threshold that exists in only a few other states.
In Texas, which has a similar requirement, Democrats staged a walkout a couple of years ago as the Republican-led Legislature was considering election legislation. Democrats in Indiana and Wisconsin also skipped legislative sessions a little over a decade ago in an attempt to block Republican bills limiting union powers.