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A look at Oregon’s Ballot Measure 113, which takes on legislative walkouts

Oregon lawmakers couldn't run for reelection if they exceed limit on absences

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Oregon's Ballot Measure 113 looks to amend the state Constitution to say failure to attend 10 or more legislative floor sessions would be deemed "disorderly behavior" and disqualify a lawmaker from holding office the following term.

The aim is to keep a quorum during legislative sessions.

For a vote, two-thirds of lawmakers need to attend. In the House, that amounts to 40 out of 60 and in the Senate 20 of 30.

The measure may sound straightforward, but Pacific University professor and political analyst Jim Moore sees the potential for problems.

"Ten absences is a lot, and it says it has to be an official absence," More said. "Is that when the Speaker of the House or President of the Senate who isn't of your party decides? It could get partisan quickly -- or what happens if there's a walkout when there's nine days left in a session?"

The history of walkouts for the Oregon legislature includes February of 2021.

 Republicans in the Senate were absent, saying Gov. Kate Brown ignored their proposals related to Covid. 

In September of 2021, Republican members of the House didn't join a session on congressional redistricting. 

In February of 2020, 11 of 12 Senate Republicans didn't attend the session - because of a bill to cap greenhouse gas emissions.

Cap and trade had also caused a Republican walkout in 2019 with the Governor directing State Police to find Republican senators. 

Democrats have staged their own walkouts.

In 2001, House members prevented Republicans from passing a redistricting plan.

"It's interesting that the main walkout over cap and trade, the Democrats didn't have enough votes to pass it, and Republicans knew when they walked out, so it became a pubic relations move rather than a practical way to stop legislation," Moore said.

A coalition called Hold Politicians Accountable is pushing for the passage of measure 113.

Its more than two-dozen backing organizations include Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Oregon Nurses Association and the Oregon Education Association.

"In public school, attendance matters, and it matters too for our policymakers to show up and do the job they were elected to do. Maybe this will make them pause and think about the consequences," said Reed Scott-Schwalbach, president of the OEA.

The OEA believes students and their families missed out on millions in dollars in funding for mental health services and flood relief during recent legislative walkouts.  

"If our students and their families don't have homes and don't feel supported, they don't do well when they come to school," added Scott-Schwalbach.

There appears to be no organized effort to defeat Measure 113, which is one reason Pacific's Moore expects it to pass.

"It looks like we want our legislators to go to Salem and do the job they were hired to do," he concluded.

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Cathy Marshall

Cathy Marshall is an anchor for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Cathyhere.

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