GOP lawmakers have yet again walked out of the Oregon Senate. If I kept not showing up to my job, I'd get fired. Are there options to stop this obstructionist move and expel senators who don't do their jobs? —Tim
There are always options, Tim. In theory, you could send the state police to drag them into the chamber by force. During the 2019 GOP walkout (not to be confused with the 2020 or 2021 walkouts), KGW asked one truant senator, Brian Boquist, about this very possibility.
Boquist—perhaps the only man in America who enjoys looking like Ted Cruz—replied that troopers had better "send bachelors and come heavily armed," as though the legislative session were some kind of straight-to-video Braveheart sequel.
A more apt cinematic parallel might be the episode of Seinfeld where George hides from a girlfriend he knows is about to dump him: "If she can't find me, she can't break up with me!"
Republican state senators know they don't have the votes (nor, lest we forget, the popular mandate those votes would represent) to block Democratic priorities in the chamber. So they just go AWOL any time they see a piece of legislation they don't like. If they can't find us, they can't outvote us!
This is possible because, like most legislative bodies, the Oregon Senate requires a quorum (i.e., a certain number of members present) to do business. In most chambers, a quorum is a simple majority of the members, but Oregon is one of three states that require two-thirds—a requirement that's written into the state constitution. If just 11 of the 30 senators walk out, there's no session.
Of course, the constitution could be changed by a legislative referral to voters. In fact, last year a bill was set to do just that. I bet you'll never guess what happened, though, before it could be passed out of the Senate!
All is not lost, however. As I write this, there are at least two ballot initiatives in the works that would address the problem. One would fine the absentees, the other would disqualify them from running for office in the subsequent election.
Both measures are in the signature-gathering stage, but I suspect those signatures will be easy to find—unlike those senators, amirite? They're hard to find! Because they're hiding! At least, they were that one time! Never mind!
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