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Oregon Democrats seek to change quorum rules, end walkouts

Oregon Capitol
KTVZ file

Republicans, meanwhile, propose doing away with 'short' session

SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Democrats in the Oregon Legislature are now seeking to have voters change its quorum rules, so walkouts by lawmakers can no longer stymie legislation.

The joint resolution, filed the week before the Legislature starts its short 2020 session next Monday, seeks to make a majority in the House and the Senate sufficient to constitute a quorum to do business.  

In 2019, Republicans staged two walkouts to deny Democrats a quorum in order to tie up bills aiming to stem global warming and proposals on gun control and vaccines. Currently, two-thirds of members of each chamber must be present. 

If the Legislature approves the resolution, voters would then decide on the proposed change in the 2020 election.

Republicans, meanwhile, have introduced a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the Oregon Constitution to eliminate even-numbered year regular sessions of the Legislature.

In 2010, voters approved a ballot measure to meet annually, with sessions not exceeding 160 days in odd-numbered years and 35 days in even-numbered years.

Republican lawmakers have argued that short sessions were not meant to handle complicated issues, like a bill introduced by Democrats for this year’s session that aims to curtail greenhouse gas emissions that are causing global warming.

A different version of the bill died last year during a Republican boycott of the Senate, though Democrats apparently lacked sufficient votes in their caucus to pass it without any Republican support.

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