Lawmkers must make law, not war

In this May 7, 2019, file photo, a group including three Democratic senators stand among the empty desks of Republican senators during a Senate floor session at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem. After two walkouts this year by minority Republicans in the Oregon Legislature snarled the chamber's business, Democrats say they will ask voters to change quorum rules. That will allow lawmakers to convene with only a simple majority present. (Connor Radnovich/Statesman-Journal via AP, File)

If a hearing before the Oregon Senate’s Committee on Housing and Development Thursday, Feb. 6, was any indication, the current legislative session may feel both long and ugly to those trapped in the Capitol building in Salem.

Tensions clearly remain high after Senate Republicans walked out of the 2019 legislative session twice, bringing the Senate to a screeching halt each time. Republicans in that body were few in number, though at least one member of the party had to be present to establish a quorum.

Denying Democrats that quorum, the Republicans clearly felt, was the only way to make their voices heard. From their point of view, the Republicans were right. The first walkout was over a $2 billion business tax, and while the tax was approved, a gun control measure and strict vaccination rules were allowed to die.

The second walkout, over cap and trade climate legislation, also was successful, if success is measured by the fact that the cap-and-trade bill died. It wasn’t clear until just before Republicans returned to Salem that the bill would have died in any event.

Fast forward to Thursday, Feb. 6. A hearing before the Senate committee was scheduled for the same time that the Timber Unity rally, with its horn-honking 1,000 trucks and even more people, got underway. The rally’s noise was noticeable, though not deafening. It was too much for committee chair Shemia Fagan, D-Portland, however, who opened the session by blaming the protesters for delaying the 8 a.m. meeting until 9:30 a.m.

That apparently was enough to spur committee member Sen. Denyc Boles, R-Salem, to leave the room, followed shortly thereafter by Rep. Dallas Heard, R-Roseburg, who was scheduled to testify.

While it might be easy to understand each side’s dissatisfaction with the other, continuing the fight ignores the very reason lawmakers are in Salem this month. It isn’t to extend a battle that began nearly a year ago.

Rather, lawmakers of both parties are in Salem to do the people’s business, efficiently and as well as they can. Bickering makes that impossible, and both sides should get a grip, swallow their anger and move forward, keeping all of their constituents in mind.

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