Oregon senators threaten re-election ban after protracted boycott
Why it matters
If the strike continues, a wide range of bills, including transport, schools and homelessness, could end up as collateral casualties. But first comes the question of whether the sick leave law will motivate enough lawmakers to come back to the Capitol. How many will be willing to risk their future?
“The voters were clear: Running away from our democracy is not an option,” said Senator Kate Lieber, the Democratic Senate Majority Leader, referring to last year’s ballot measure.
Committee hearings have continued so far; only half of the legislators on a panel are needed to reach a quorum in that proceeding.
In recent years, Republicans have used strikes to block bills on taxes, climate legislation and abortion. During one of those earlier strikes, former Democratic governor Kate Brown sent state troopers to boycott lawmakers, but had no luck getting them to return, until Democratic leaders declared dead for the year a cap-and-trade climate proposal that the boycotting legislators opposed. The state’s new governor, Tina Kotek, also a Democrat, has ruled out a strategy to get them back to work.
In a state where Democrats dominate population centers in the West and Republicans thrive in the more rural areas of the South and East, Republicans have sometimes felt so powerless that some have considered a more permanent separation, with a long-running proposal to close the eastern portion from the state to Idaho.
It wasn’t always like that. At the turn of the century, Republicans controlled both legislative chambers. In 2001, Democrats in the State House used a strike to protest the Republican majority’s redistribution plans. But that was before the increasing progressive influence of places like Portland and Eugene.
More than two-thirds of voters voted in favor of the ban on legislative omissions last year.
Democrats hope lawmakers will resume their work in the coming days. Some Republican lawmakers have yet to reach the 10-day mark and could return to the Capitol sooner. The legislature should approve a new state budget by the end of June.
A Republican lawsuit, if filed, wouldn’t be resolved in time for the current session, but it could help bring clarity for next year’s session — and determine who gets to run for re-election.