In a letter posted on her website on June 18, titled Response to Return of a Quorum, state Senator Kim Thatcher (R-Keizer), criticized fellow Republican lawmakers for surrendering to the majority Democrats to provide a quorum for Senate business after a six-week walkout.
The letter also expressed her concerns and disappointment about latitude given Democrats after negotiations about controversial bills covering topics such as gender affirming care for minors, abortion and guns. Thatcher accused Democrats of corruption, by letting the Executive branch lead the way.
“They are ignoring the Constitution,” said Thatcher in an interview. She said the state Attorney General was representing some senators in lawsuits, a break with separation of powers.
In her letter the senator wrote she could not, in good conscience, return to the Senate floor until ongoing Constitutional concerns or breaking the rules are “adequately addressed.”
The main issue that caused a Senate Republican walkout was House Bill 2002, which establishes a right to make decisions about an individual’s reproductive health and allows individuals to bring civil action against public body to enforce right. The bill clarifies circumstances permitting a minor under the age of 15 to obtain an abortion without consent of parent or guardian. The bill also prohibits health benefit plan exclusion of medically necessary gender-affirming treatments.
Rate payers will pay 100% of “gender affirming care,: such as facial feminization, tracheal shaving, hormone treatments and genital reconfiguration.
The bill has “loopholes you can drive a truck through,” said Thatcher.
Thatcher lamented that a flurry of bills were rapidly approved last week after some Republicans went to the floor to comprise a quorum.
“The Democrats still want total power over every position of government and every role of families in this state,” Thatcher’s letter read in part. “They want every law-abiding citizen disarmed,” it continued. She further wrote, “That’s the definition of tyranny.”
In her interview Thatcher said she believed much of the gender affirming care legislation was brought by outside groups. “It’s not just Oregon, it’s national organizations.” She said that HB2002 requires insurance companies to pay for all of that care while some cancer patients have to spend tens of thousands of dollars for their care.
When asked what the Republicans can do when voters don’t buy what the GOP is selling, Thatcher said that a switch of about 1,500 votes in the 2022 general election would have resulted with Republicans in control of the state legislature.
Mail and communications to Thatcher’s office is a mixed bag of responses, but many write they are happy with her stands on these hot topics.
As a deputy minority leader, Thatcher works to be sure her voice is heard when she meets with her caucus leader.
“The caucus is not run with an iron fist. When I speak my mind, I am heard,” said Thatcher.
The senator has had more than 10 unexcused absences during the Republican walkout. Oregon Measure 113, passed by 68% of voters in November, excludes a legislator from re-election if they have 10 or more unexcused absences. There is expected to be a legal challenge to the constitutionality of Measure 113.