Thursday, June 1, 2023
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Oregon Republicans Block Radical Votes by Denying Legislative Quorum

'It’s about every bill. But those bills specifically also don’t qualify under this law, and they refuse to fix them...'

(Headline USA) Taking a page from the playbook of Democrat lawmakers—notably in a 2011 Wisconsin standoff and a 2021 attempt in Texas—Republican lawmakers in Oregon sought to forestall two radical blue-state bills by refusing to show up. 

Partisan tensions in Oregon skyrocketed Wednesday after GOP state senators denied Democrats who control the chamber a quorum.

The move cast doubt on planned votes on legislation about gun control, and a separate bill addressing abortion and transgender surgery.

According to the office of Democratic Senate President Rob Wagner, 10 Republicans and the chamber’s lone independent were absent.

In Oregon, two-thirds of the state House and Senate members need to be present to conduct business, or 20 of the 30 current members. Currently, 17 senators are Democrats, 12 are Republicans and one is an independent.

Republicans said they were protesting over bill summaries not being written in plain language.

They based their boycott on a 1979 state law that requires the summaries of bills to be readable by those with an eighth- or ninth-grade education—measured by a score of at least 60 on something called the Flesch readability test.

GOP Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp said a Republican staff member discovered the existence of the law last month. Knopp couldn’t say when the law has previously been followed, if ever.

Asked whether the Republican boycott was due to the bills on gun control and abortion, Knopp said: “It’s about every bill. But those bills specifically also don’t qualify under this law, and they refuse to fix them.”

He didn’t say how long Republicans planned to continue their protest.

Democrats said they don’t believe the Republicans left because of the readability of bill summaries, but rather to obstruct the passage of legislation they oppose.

Wagner claimed it was no coincidence the walkout began when state lawmakers were about to consider the bills on three flashpoint topics.

Democratic Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber said that Republicans appeared to be “weaponizing” an old law for political gain.

If Republican senators deny a quorum for the rest of the legislative session, which doesn’t end until late June, they could kill the bills.

However, a new ballot measure approved by Oregon voters in November bars lawmakers who have 10 or more unexcused absences from running for reelection.

The two bills are central to Democrats’ legislative agenda this session.

The wide-ranging bill on abortion and transgender surgery would implement a series of measures, including shielding patients and providers from lawsuits originating in states where such care is now restricted. It would also require public universities and community colleges with student health centers to provide medication abortion and emergency contraception.

Additionally, it would expand insurance coverage for transgenders by barring insurers from defining as “cosmetic” any sex-altering procedures that are prescribed as medically necessary for treating gender dysphoria, among other things.

The parts of the proposal that have proved to be the most contentious have to do with minors. Under the legislation, doctors would be allowed to provide an abortion to anyone regardless of age, and it would bar them in certain cases from disclosing that to parents.

Democratic lawmakers have claimed such scenarios are rare. But critics said this could exclude parents from key aspects of their child’s health care.

The gun control measure would increase the purchasing age to 21 for AR-15-style rifles and similar weapons, impose penalties for possessing undetectable firearms, and allow for more limited concealed-carry rights.

Adapted from reporting by the Associated Press

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