The Campaign to Punish GOP Walkouts Cranks Up Signature Gathering

Progressive groups put $50,000 toward a ballot initiative that would penalize wayward lawmakers.

HOW MUCH?

$50,000, to pay for signature gathering.

WHO GAVE IT?

Our Oregon, the 501(c)(4) nonprofit that gets significant funding from public employee unions and has historically been very active on ballot measures, but less so in recent cycles.

WHO GOT IT?

The political action committee Legislative Accountability 1.

WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Democrats got really angry when Republican lawmakers walked out of legislative sessions in 2019 and 2020 to block passage of climate bills and again in 2021 to make a point about COVID-19 policies. With Democrats holding supermajorities, GOP lawmakers have taken advantage of Oregon’s high bar for what constitutes a quorum—two-thirds of members of a chamber must be present.

Only three other states—Indiana, Tennessee and Texas—require two-thirds. Most only require half of members to operate. In 2020, Democrats set out to pass a ballot measure that would discourage the practice of walkouts, but COVID-19 killed signature gathering that year. Now Our Oregon and its progressive allies will pay to gather signatures for a constitutional amendment that would disqualify any lawmaker with 10 or more unexcused absences from seeking reelection.

“We feel really confident that voters are sick of these walkouts and they are ready for there to be real accountability for politicians who walk away from their duties,” says Hannah Love, a spokeswoman for Our Oregon.