With a supermajority (a more than three-fifths majority) in both the Oregon Senate and House, state Democrats appeared poised to pass a litany of notable progressive bills this legislative session.
But, it appears, a four-day boycott by the Senate Republicans was enough to keep Oregon's Democrat leaders from truly flexing their supermajority muscle.
According to OPB, legislative Democratic leaders have agreed to trade two major progressive bills for a bill that could funnel an estimated $2 billion in state business taxes to Oregon's historically underfunded public schools. The legislation would stick a 0.57 percent tax on Oregon businesses raking in more than $1 million in annual sales.
This decision came after Senate Republicans, upset that Democrats chose to create a new business tax over reevaluating the state's bloated pension system, stormed out of the capitol last week—their absence denying Senate Democrats the quorum needed to vote on the proposed tax. Their departure coincided with another state-wide walkout of tens of thousands of Oregon public school teachers, fed up with how the states poorly-funded school system has limited their students' (and their own) ability to succeed.
Only after Senate leaders agreed to scrap two of the legislature's more contentious bills did Republicans return to legislative chambers to vote on the public school fund.
The bills on the chopping block? House Bill 3063, a bipartisan legislation which would have denied parents from using philosophical exemptions to avoid vaccinating their child and Senate Bill 978, a gun reform package that would have increased the legal age to purchase a gun to 21, required all firearms store in a house be locked, allowed universities to ban firearms on campus, and tightened other gun safety rules.
The deal was apparently the brainchild of Gov. Kate Brown, who encouraged Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, Senate President Peter Courtney, and House Speaker Tina Kotek to introduce the proposal over the past few days.
Sen. Mitch Greenlick, a North Portland Democrat who sponsored the gun control measure, told OPB Democratic leadership's deal with the GOP "trades human lives for politics."
Brown is expected to sign the bill in the next few days.
But, even then, the funding source isn't completely guaranteed. According to the Oregonian, opponents of the business tax could still lobby to take the plan to a public vote after Brown signs it into law.
In the words Rep. Cheri Helt, a Bend Republican behind the pro-vaccination measure speaking with OPB: “It’s disappointing that once again the loudest, most extreme voices in our politics prevailed and the sensible-center and thoughtful policy-making lost.”