Thursday, June 15 marked the end of the longest Republican walkout in Oregon’s history.
Just 10 days before the 2023 legislative session is set to end, elected leaders announced an agreement between state Democrats and Senate Republicans that would bring GOP officials back to the Capitol for the rest of the 2023 legislative session, creating the needed quorum for votes on key pieces of legislation.
"I'm encouraged that we were able to come to an agreement that will allow us to finish the important work Oregonians sent us here to accomplish,” Senate President Rob Wagner (D–Lake Oswego) said in a joint statement with House Speaker Dan Rayfield. “We have achieved major bipartisan victories already this session, and I expect that to continue now that we have returned to the floor. I am grateful for all the senators who listened to each other and sought an end to this walkout while protecting Oregon priorities and values."
Since the walkout started May 3, hundreds of bills have been stalled.
What spurred the walkout?
Bills on abortion and gender-affirming health care, as well as gun legislation, were major catalysts for a nearly six-week Republican walkout in the Senate, which the GOP used as a tactic to prevent bills from moving forward.
Of the key concessions made by Democrats to get bipartisan agreement:
House Bill 2002, a bill that seeks to enshrine the right to abortion and gender-affirming care for transgender people, was clarified to require doctors to notify parents or guardians of patients younger than 15 receiving an abortion, unless a provider deems parental involvement could lead to abuse or neglect, or a second opinion from a different provider agrees it’s not in the child patient’s best interest to involve a parent, as reported by the Oregon Capitol Chronicle. The revised version would also remove parts of the bill that called for grants for reproductive health care at colleges and in rural facilities.
Legislative leaders promised the bill will still “ensure the bill affirms standard abortion care that has been in place for 50 years under Roe v. Wade, but was jeopardized by the Dobbs decision,” Rayfield and Wagner noted. As amended, the bill will still protect health care providers from any legal backlash for providing care, and still requires health insurance companies to cover “medically necessary gender-affirming care.”
Another bill, House Bill 2005, which sought to ban the manufacture and sale of “ghost guns"– firearms that are virtually untraceable–also sought to raise the purchasing age of certain firearms to 21 and would have allowed local governments to ban concealed weapons on government property. Now, the bill is back to its original version of banning only ghost guns.
A workgroup will study policy solutions to gun violence and suicide prevention, while the state will pour $10 million into a Community Violence Prevention program.
Senate Joint Resolution 33 and Senate Bill 27 will now be referred back to committee. Those bills sought to enshrine the right to abortion and same sex marriage in Oregon’s Constitution.
As part of the concessions, a 9-8-8 suicide prevention hotline will get substantial funding and House Joint Resolution 16 would allow voters to amend the Constitution to give the legislature the power to impeach statewide elected officials.
Yesterday, some Oregon Democrats announced a proposal to change the legislature's quorum requirements to a simple majority, thereby preventing future walkouts from stalling legislative sessions.
"On opening day, the House set out clear priorities to move Oregon forward,” House Speaker Rayfield (D-Corvallis) said in Thursday’s joint statement. “We promised to address the housing crisis, prioritize good-paying jobs through the Oregon CHIPS Act, ensure our kids and educators have the resources they need to succeed in school, invest in public safety and accountability to make our communities safer, and protect access to reproductive healthcare. This agreement sets us up for the final steps of delivering on these commitments we made from day one."