Legislative walkouts work in Oregon. They may not bring permanent victory. But they can halt the Legislature.
It’s easy to remember that Republicans recently walked out — in 2019, 2020 and 2021. Gov. Kate Brown criticized them.
“We were all elected by the voters to represent our communities, and to be the voice of our constituents in the capitol,” she said in 2020. “Republicans signed up for this. If they don’t like a bill, then they need to show up and change it, or show up and vote no.”
Democrats have used them, too. House Democrats walked out in 2001 in a redistricting fight.
Brown said when she was the leader of the Senate Democrats in 2001 the action was “very appropriate under the circumstances.”
“Under certain circumstances, it’s fair to say we would use all the tools available to us,” she added.
Walkouts are going to be on the ballot in November. A “yes” vote on Measure 113 amends the Oregon Constitution so if a legislator has more than 10 unexcused absences they would be disqualified from holding office in the term following the current term.
Walkouts work in Oregon because the requirement is that the Legislature requires a two-thirds quorum to operate. Many states only require a simple majority. Legislators in Oregon can be “compelled” under the law to attend legislative floor sessions. It hasn’t really worked. Some lawmakers left the state to avoid being yanked back. And there is also no penalty under current law for unexcused absences. That’s what Measure 114 purports to solve by creating one.
We understand why Oregonians get frustrated with walkouts. We can also think of examples where Oregonians may agree with Brown in 2001 that a walkout might be appropriate under the circumstances.
Do we need a punishment for legislators after 10 days and is Measure 113 the right one? Or should we let voters decide if they want a legislator who walked out to represent them?
We think voters should decide. They already can. But how you vote on Measure 113 is up to you.
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