Image for Senate Walkout Ends, Floor Votes Resume
After a historic walkout ends, the Oregon Senate resumed voting late last week for the first time May 2.

Political Compromise Should Enable Budget Bills to Pass by June 25

The longest legislative walkout in Oregon and U.S. history ended Thursday after Democratic and Republican leaders reached a compromise. Senate floor voting resumed for the first time since the walkout began May 2. After Senate Republican Leader said, “It’s go time, Mr. President,” the Senate passed 60 bills on Thursday and several budget bills and gubernatorial appointments on Friday. Republicans agreed to waive reading bills before votes.

Most budget bills have been finalized and are expected to move easily through both chambers. One exception is the capital construction or so-called Christmas tree bill, which is still being finalized. Reportedly, part of the compromise ending the walkout was to give Republicans more say in special projects included in what will be the final budget bill.

The two House bills at the center of the walkout that dealt with abortion, gender-affirming care and gun regulation were amended per the compromise and passed by the Senate on Thursday. The bills now return to the House for concurrence votes, which is expected this week.

The bipartisan compromise will permit passage of House Joint Resolution 16, asking Oregon voters to amend the state Constitution to empower the legislature to impeach statewide elected officials. The agreement also green-lights House Bill 2757 that will establish a telecommunications fee to fund the 9-8-8 suicide prevention line.

Lawmakers on Friday unveiled an early childhood budget framework to reduce child poverty that includes a $1,000 per child tax credit for up to six dependents five years old or younger in a family. The $172 million investment is in addition to a $1.8 billion budget for the Department of Early Learning and Childcare that is moving through the Joint Ways and Means Committee.

The legislature won’t reconvene until Tuesday in observance of Juneteenth on Monday.

The End of Historic Walkout
Serious negotiations began June 9 and continued into the following week. Both sides claimed victory.

“Senate Republicans and Independents stood firm as the last line of defense for parental rights and the rule of law. I’m incredibly proud of their steadfast determination to give their constituents a long-overdue seat at the table,” Senate Republican Leader Tim Knopp said in a written statement.

The Democratic perspective was summed up in a social media post by Kari Chisholm of BlueOregon. “No matter what you hear from establishment media, this is a huge win for Senate Democrats who were united and held to their progressive principles.”

Senate Democrats agreed to modify a section of HB 2002 to require parental notification for abortions for girls under 15 years old. The requirement can be waived if the attending medical professional gets a second opinion that an abortion is in the best interest of a pregnant child.

Other parts of HB 2002 remain intact, including putting the right to an abortion in Oregon law, granting liability protection for health care providers who perform abortions for out-of-state patients and requiring insurance coverage for gender-affirming care for trans people.

HB 2005 was amended to remove a provision raising the age to buy a firearm in Oregon from 18 to 21. The provision banning untraceable ghost guns remained in HB 2005. The amended version of bill now sets up a task force on gun violence and funds research into the causes and consequences of gun violence.

Democrats didn’t agree to forgive the more than 10 unexcused absences of 10 of the 13 Senate Republicans, which under Measure 113 would disqualify them from seeking re-election. The Senate GOP caucus has signaled it will challenge the constitutionality and clarity of the ballot measure. Senate Democrats did agree to drop fines assessed to absent senators.

On Wednesday, Rep. David Gomberg, D-Otis, introduced, along with 39 other lawmakers, House Joint Resolution 30 that would ask voters to reduce the number of House and Senate members needed to establish a quorum for floor votes. The Oregon Constitution requires a quorum of two-thirds of House and Senate to be present.

Opioid Overdose Compromise Reached
Most of House Bill 2395 remains intact to make naloxone more widely available for use to counteract opioid overdoses, including in schools. The bill was amended because Republican lawmakers objected to allowing children under 15 to receive addiction and behavioral health treatment without parental consent. The bill also was amended to align with Oregon’s existing Good Samaritan law, which protects people who make good faith efforts to help those overdosing but still allows lawsuits in cases of gross negligence. HB 2395 heads to the Senate floor for a vote.

State Trooper Honor Out of Limbo
One of the measures caught up in the Senate GOP walkout is a resolution belatedly honoring Gary LaVaughn Sumpter, a small-town reserve police officer shot by a teenager during a Toledo car chase March 15, 1969. The fatal bullet pierced his badge. The resolution was the next bill up on the Senate floor when the walkout started.

As it turned out, the first bill voted on by the Senate last Thursday was House Concurrent Resolution 25 that commemorates the 75th anniversary of the Oregon Institute of Technology.

Early Childhood Budget Framework
Here are details of the $172 million initiative:

  • $75 million to invest in a $1,000 tax credit per child providing needed relief for families with up to six dependents from ages zero to five.
  • $50 million to build, renovate and expand childcare and preschool facilities across Oregon and $5 million to provide technical assistance to those seeking to access this funding.
  • $15 million to the Employment-Related Day Care program to ensure families have access to affordable childcare by increasing provider reimbursement rates, as well as another $8 million to manage caseload capacity.
  • $18.6 million for the Department of Education’s Early Intervention and/or Early Childhood Special Education Services, to meet the increase in caseload and ensure Oregon kids get timely resources and attention.
  • $300,000 to study barriers to a high-quality early childhood workforce and to provide guidance for successful careers working with kids and families.

Children Literacy Funding in Question
Support for early literacy legislation remains solid but how to fund it has become a sticking point. Governor Kotek wants new funding, but lawmakers prefer to use funds from the state’s corporate activities tax. Kotek and education advocates say CAT revenues were designated when the new tax was imposed.

Kotek Cancels Liquor Tax Hike
Governor Kotek asked the Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Control Commission to suspend consideration of a 50-cent surcharge on liquor sales. She said a bigger-than-expected revenue projection should ensure adequate financial resources to support her proposals to bolster behavioral health. Advocates for the surcharge claim higher liquor prices would discourage drinking.

State Wetlands Protection
Even though the US Supreme Court has issued a ruling narrowing what wetlands qualify for federal regulation, Oregon’s Removal Fill Act remains in place to guard against removing material from wetlands, according to Bill Ryan, deputy director of the Oregon Department of State Lands. “Relative to the rest of the country, Oregon is actually in really good shape.”

Update on Specific Bills
The Senate on Friday approved budget bills for the Oregon Health Authority, Department of Corrections and Department of Justice. They now head to the House for approval.

Tuesday’s Senate floor agenda includes Senate Bill 337 to bolster Oregon’s public defender system, Senate Bill 85 to require large animal feeding operations to submit water supply plans, Senate Bill 498 to expand estate state exemptions for farming, fishing and forestry interests and Senate Bill 611 to impose further impose further limits on rent increases.

The House is scheduled to vote on legislation to boost use of heat pumps as a way to increase eligibility for federal green energy financial assistance.!preferred/0/package/35646/pub/58726/page/18/article/1769350

Pay Raise Under Consideration
The Senate Rules Committee voted 3-0 to advance Senate Joint Resolution 34, which would ask voters to amend the state Constitution to create a new commission empowered to set salaries for elected state officials. State employees, elected officials and lobbyists wouldn’t be allowed to serve on the commission, nor would immediate family members of elected officials.

Serious Data Breach Occurred
Oregon Department of Transportation officials confirmed in a news release that the personal information of 3.5 million Oregonians with driver’s licenses and state identification cards could be affected by an international data breach. “Your driver’s license contains plenty of information about you, including your birthdate, home address and even your height, weight and eye color. Scammers can use some of this information to steal your identity and apply for credit cards, loans and unemployment benefits in your name,” ODOT warned in a statement. The agency advised Oregonians to monitor their credit reports.