An increasing number of Republican legislators are now disqualified from future elections under Measure 113, but they may challenge the law in court.
Four Oregon state senators are now ineligible for reelection, and more could be joining them soon.
Monday marked the tenth day of the Republican-led walk out, at which point two Republicans (Sen. Daniel Bonham, who represents The Dalles area and Sen. Dennis Linthicum, who represents Klamath Falls) and one independent (Sen. Brian Boquist, who represents Polk and Yamhill Counties) surpassed the limit of unexcused absences — a standard set by the passage of Measure 113 in November. By Wednesday morning, at least two legislators — Boquist and Lynn Findley (R-Vale) — attended a revenue forecast hearing.
The tenth day of the walkout occurred after Senate President Rob Wagner (D-Lake Oswego) canceled Senate sessions on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday — offering more time for negotiations that might convince Republicans to come back to work. But lawmakers are standing their ground. The fourth, Sen. Cedric Hayden (R-Fall Creek), reached 10 absences on Tuesday.
Gov. Tina Kotek told Capital Chronicle Wednesday that the walkout has not reached the point where she needs to intervene, and that she had “no idea” what intervention would look like.
“I’m more than happy to lose my job if I can stop [HB 2002] from happening,” Bonham told KGW, referring to a bill that would require Medicaid and private insurers to cover a broader spectrum of gender-affirming care and would make abortions available to minors without parental consent. “But I don’t think Ballot Measure 113 as it stands will stop most of us from running for office again, and securing the seat, hopefully.”
Republicans are leveraging the requirement that two-thirds of lawmakers be present to pass legislation in the Democrat-led senate, effectively stalling all bills in consideration this session. Oregon’s constitutional quorum is uniquely high — most states require a simple majority — which has proved useful for both parties in the past. Senate and House Republicans walked out in 2019 and 2020 in protest of proposals to cap greenhouse gas emissions. They walked out again in 2021 in response to Governor Kate Brown’s COVID-19 restrictions. Oregon Democrats last boycotted legislative proceedings in response to redistricting in 2001.
Oregon Republicans have claimed the walkout is largely in response to a recently uncovered 1979 law, stating bill summaries must be written at an eighth-grade level. But the legislation Bonham says he’ll risk his job to block is a package of abortion and gender-affirming health care.
Senate Democrats say it’s clear the readability law is an excuse to block progress on the majority party’s agenda, which includes protecting abortion access, gender-affirming healthcare, and gun control.
The walkout is preventing progress on hundreds of bills, including legislation dealing with urgent bipartisan issues.
“Oregonians are demanding that elected leaders deliver results on homelessness, behavioral health, education and other major issues right now,” Kotek’s spokesperson, Elisabeth Shepard, said last week.
But Republican lawmakers insist the walkout is necessary to prevent what Senate minority leader Tim Knopp called an “extreme, unlawful, and unconstitutional agenda,” in a statement released Monday.
As more senators will likely hit the 10-absence tripwire in the coming days, it remains unclear how Measure 113 — which 68% of Oregonians voted for last year — would work in practice, especially as Republicans are preparing to fight the measure in court.
Oregon’s Thirteen, a new political action committee led by Knopp, is now raising funds to support the Republican boycott. The website lists all 13 senate Republicans with contact information, along with a link to donate to “fund the fight for accountability.”
There is no end in sight to the boycott, and should it continue, up to six more senators could hit 10 absences, disqualifying them from future elections.