The politics of the legislature

As I begin to write each monthly column, I try to write something with the perspective of “I’ve never been to the Capitol and I don’t understand what those people do down there.” 

Until I was elected, I wondered the same thing. For instance, the matter of the recent walkout by the Senate Republicans—what did that actually mean? Though you could argue that this was a partisan procedure, when in truth, it is a part of the legislative process for any minority party in the Legislature. It is a drastic procedure and it’s only used when absolutely necessary and has been utilized in the recent past by both parties. The goal is to get the majority party to come to the table and negotiate. In regard to this year, the minority leaders in both the House and Senate chambers felt that they were left out of multiple negotiations which included Cap and Trade, Student Success/Gross Receipts Tax, gun control, the Paid Family Leave Act and other issues important to Oregon.

Another tool the minority party has is to “read the bills.” The Oregon Constitution requires that every bill be read in full before the members of that chamber vote on it. Traditionally, for many years the minority party has suspended those rules to allow the bill summary only to be read instead of the entire bill. So, when the rules are not suspended by the minority party, it’s within the Constitution, and also allows for slowing down of the process so that there is more consideration for what is being voted on. 

What are the pros and cons of these tools? The pros are: the process is slowed down in hopes of not passing bills that have not been thoroughly debated in their perspective committees, and the potential opportunity for more negotiations. The cons are: it slows down the process (again), potentially killing legislation and it’s a very painful process for each party, thus it’s known as the “nuclear option” because no one likes it. 

So, what did the walkout accomplish? According to sources I’ve heard, Gov. Kate Brown and the Senate Republicans and Democrats negotiated together to bring the Senate Republicans back to the building with the Senate Republicans agreeing to stop using all the tools I just described for the remainder of the session. In return, Senate Democrats promised they would not bring SB 978 (gun legislation) and HB 3063 (vaccine legislation) to the Senate floor for a vote, which means these two bills will not pass this session. They also promised Sen. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) will have a larger role negotiating HB 2020 (Cap and Trade legislation). 

Needless to say, it has been a dramatic few weeks in the Capitol. It’s unclear what legislation will pass before the mandated Sine Die (adjournment) of June 30th. At this point, anything could happen. As always, please feel free to contact my office with questions or concerns. 

(Bill Post represents House Dis- trict 25. He can be reached at 503- 986- 1425 or via email at rep.bill- post@ oregonlegislature.gov.)