"In Oregon, it takes only a simple majority to pass a piece of legislation, but at least two-thirds of the chamber must be present to hold a vote," wrote Tessa Stuart. "For decades, the minority party has taken advantage of the rules, walking off the job when they want to kill bills they don’t have enough votes to defeat. Democrats pioneered the tactic back in 1971, but Republicans have invoked it with increased frequency in recent years, walking out to avoid voting on bills to fund schools (2019), limit greenhouse gas emissions (2019 and 2020), implement pandemic-era public health rules (2021), and redraw legislative districts (2021)."
In some cases, members called out on their behavior have become downright belligerent. In 2019, Republican state Sen. Brian Boquist, in response to threats by Gov. Kate Brown to send state police to retrieve lawmakers who walked out, suggested he'd shoot troopers who try to take him in.
However, in 2022, fed-up voters passed a ballot initiative to end this tactic: under Measure 113, any lawmaker who has 10 or more unexcused absences is ineligible to run for office again. But Republicans are plowing forward with their walkout anyway — and as of now, 10 of 13 GOP lawmakers, or half the entire Senate, have been disqualified under the statute.
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"At least two — [Senate Minority Leader Tim] Knopp and Boquist — have vowed to challenge the amendment in court, on the grounds that it violates free speech protections," said the report. "Reached by email, Boquist said he believed that barring him from reelection would require a two-thirds vote by the Senate. (The language passed by voters in November does not appear to specify that.) A political action committee, the Oregon’s 13 Constitutional Defense Fund, has been created to bankroll Republicans’ legal challenge, even as some experts insist their efforts are doomed." The ACLU of Oregon says that there is no basis for challenging the law under the First Amendment, and more broadly, legislatures have widely been viewed by courts to have broad power to set rules to enforce order.
"However the court challenge shakes out, Oregon labor leader Melissa Unger says 'it misses the entire point' voters made when they voted in November to punish lawmakers from walking off the job," noted the report. "Two-thirds of Oregonians supported Measure 113 — a majority in every single Senate district, and in 34 of Oregon’s 36 counties. 'By willfully ignoring this ballot measure, they are really ignoring what voters clearly said, which was: ‘You have a job to do … Show up and do your job.’'"