Oregon Republican strike threatens bills on abortion, transgender care — and senators’ careers

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — A boycott by Republican state senators in Oregon threatens to derail hundreds of bills including those on gun control, gendered grooming and abortion rights by a deadline that could also upend the political future of protesters.

democrats Control the Statehouse in Oregon. But the GOP uses rules that require the presence of two-thirds of lawmakers to pass legislation, meaning Democrats need a certain number of attendees republican also be there.

Republican and Democratic House leaders met behind closed doors for a third day Friday to try to bridge the gap as the boycott began its ninth straight day. Lawmakers with 10 unexcused absences are barred from re-election under a constitutional amendment passed overwhelmingly last November by voters weary of repeated work stoppages.

To allow time for negotiations – and to keep boycotters with nine unexcused absences from reaching that 10-day stumbling block – Senate President Rob Wagner agreed to cancel Senate sessions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Instead, it would meet again on Monday.

“I think people, at least those who watch politics, are going to have a pretty nervous weekend,” said Priscilla Southwell, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Oregon, on Friday.

Connor Radnovich, Wagner’s spokesman, said: “Talks are ongoing and will continue into the weekend.”

Several state houses across the country, including Montana And Tennesseewere ideological battlefields that year. Oregon – pioneer of marijuana decriminalization, recyclingAnd protect immigrants – is often regarded as one of the most liberal states in America. But there are also deeply conservative rural areas.

This clash of ideologies has kept the Senate out of commission since May 2nd. Outstanding bills are piling up and the biennial state budget, which requires House and Senate approval before the end of June, is still unfinished.

Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek’s office said many important bills were at stake.

“Oregon residents are demanding that elected leaders deliver results on homelessness, behavioral health, education and other important issues right now,” Kotek spokeswoman Elisabeth Shepard said Thursday.

About 100 people, including members of Moms Demand Action, a gun safety group, protested the strike on the steps of the Oregon State Capitol in Salem late Thursday.

A participant holds up a sign during a rally calling for an end to the Senate Republican strike at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Oregon on Thursday, May 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)
A participant holds up a sign during a rally calling for an end to the Senate Republican strike at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem, Oregon on Thursday, May 11, 2023. (AP Photo/Amanda Loman)

“Get back to work,” they shouted.

“We demand that you show up!” said Liz Marquez, a political organizer at PCUN, a farm workers’ union, over a loudspeaker. “Every day, Oregon workers turn up for difficult and sometimes dangerous jobs.”

Republican lawmakers have obstructed several Oregon legislative sessions. In one boycott, dozens of truckers surrounded the Capitol and honked their horns, fearing a climate change law would adversely affect them.

This time, Republican senators insist they are mostly staying away by law of 1979 — rediscovered last month by a Republican Senate staffer — mandating that summaries of legislation be written at the eighth-grade level. Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp said Republicans also want Democrats to reject “their most extreme bills.”

But it’s obvious to Democrats that the legibility issue is just an excuse to thwart legislative progress House of Representatives Act 2002aiming to protect abortion and gender-responsive healthcare for transgender people by strengthening legal guarantees and expanding access and insurance coverage.

“It is very clear that there is a concerted effort to undermine the will of the people and to stall the legislature in violation of the Oregon State Constitution,” Senate President Wagner said when he spoke on Sept May 5 the session closed with the gavel plenary session due to lack of quorum.

Knopp, the chair of the GOP Senate, said Thursday he hopes the cancellation of Senate meetings this weekend “gives us time to work out a legitimate agreement that will benefit all Oregon residents.”

Wagner says the abortion rights and gender-sensitive care bill is non-negotiable.

A prolonged boycott could also create complications for next year’s primary and general elections.

Because it is unclear how the boycottists could be excluded from running again. The 2022 voting measure is now part of the Oregon Constitution, which barred a legislator with ten or more unexcused absences “from acting in office” in the next term.

A Reason Voting Measure 113, signed by a former state Supreme Court Justice and others, said a disqualified candidate “may run for office…and win, but cannot hold office.”

However, the Secretary of State’s elections department would not put a disqualified MP on the ballot, according to State Department spokesman Ben Morris.

“While this may differ from reasoning, the courts have interpreted election laws to mean that an election official cannot allow a candidate to vote if he knows the candidate is ineligible for office,” Morris said.

Disqualified Republicans are expected to take legal action.

The SEIU503 union, which represents nurses, nonprofit workers, and public sector employees across Oregon, strongly supported the unexcused absence policy. Though Republicans boycotted anyway, Union Executive Director Melissa Unger said that doesn’t mean Measure 113 was a failure.

“The reality is that all things take time to change,” Unger said Thursday. “So my guess is that in two years we’ll have new senators, and maybe they’ll learn a lesson.”

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