A global pandemic. A state budget in trouble. A need for police reform. With all that going on, you might hope legislators would be working in sync during the special session.
Nope. Why not? You know the answer: A crisis doesn't make it easier to find bipartisan agreement on solving problems. It just creates more pressure to come up with solutions.
The superminority status of the Republican Party can hurt Oregon. Democrats control both houses of the Legislature and the governor's office. Democrats earned that. They won the elections. They get to push their agenda. They are who Oregonians wanted.
While it doesn't make the Republicans in the Legislature irrelevant, it does make them less relevant. They can be effectively ignored. If they are eliminated from the conversation, that can be bad for the districts they represent and the state.
The weakness of the Republicans was obvious as the special session began. Senate Republicans voted against the very rules under which the session would operate. The rules still easily passed. Under the rules, only two people have the capability to create bills or amendments during the special session: Senate President Peter Courtney and Speaker of the House Tina Kotek, both Democrats.
“The rights of the minority, no matter who the minority party is, are extremely important and they are compromised by these special session rules,” said Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod, of Stayton. “Without the ability to create or amend legislation, my colleagues and I are legislators by name only during the special session.”
Girod is right, though there's more to it than that. Yes, the rules of the special session are indeed strikingly different than the rules of a regular session. But we looked back at the rules of special sessions in the past. The extreme limitation on who controls what legislation can be introduced is not exactly unusual. And as we said, if his party wants more say in Oregon government, it needs to win more races.
The question is also, though, if the Democrats in control of Oregon government go too far in ignoring Republicans.
"It is a fundamental power grab by the majority party . . . to eliminate one of the procedural mechanisms designed for the express purpose of guaranteeing individual rights and they also, as a consequence, would undermine the protections of the minority point of view."
Who said that? It was Joe Biden in 2005 when he was a U.S. Senator. It was a different time, place and debate. The point is still the same.