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OR Democrats Vote to Fine Senators     06/02 06:09


   SALEM, Ore. (AP) -- Oregon Senate Democrats plan to start fining their 
absent colleagues amid a month-long Republican walkout, a move they hope will 
pressure boycotting lawmakers to return to the chamber as hundreds of bills 
languish amid the partisan stalemate.

   In a procedural move Thursday, Democrats voted to fine senators $325 every 
time their absence denies the chamber the two-thirds quorum it needs to conduct 
business. The amount reflects lawmakers' average daily pay, according to the 
office of Democratic Senate President Rob Wagner.

   "Oregonians work for a living every day, and they don't get paid when they 
don't show up," Wagner said while addressing the Senate. "We have a huge stack 
of bills sitting right over there on that cart, just waiting for us to take 
them up, to debate and to vote."

   The month-long Republican walkout -- the longest-ever in the Oregon 
Legislature -- once again prevented the Senate from reaching a quorum on 
Thursday. But Democratic Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, citing an article 
in the state constitution, requested that the Senate compel absent members to 
attend and fine absentees $325 for every day a quorum isn't reached. Her 
request was voted on and approved by the other Democrats present on the Senate 

   The article of the Oregon Constitution cited by Democrats states that even 
if two-thirds of members are not present, "a smaller number may meet ... and 
compel the attendance of absent members."

   Senate Republican Minority Leader Tim Knopp condemned the plan as 

   Most Republican senators haven't shown up for floor sessions since May 3, 
denying quorum and stalling hundreds of bills, including ones on abortion, 
gender-affirming care and gun control that have sparked fierce debate in the 

   Knopp has said Republicans will only return to the Senate on the last day of 
the legislative session, June 25, to pass the budget and "bipartisan" bills.

   Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek said Wednesday that her talks to end the impasse 
have failed and that Knopp wants the bill on abortion and gender-affirming care 
to be "substantially amended or dead."

   Kotek said negotiating on that measure, which has already passed the House, 
is not an option.

   After Republicans staged previous walkouts in 2019, 2020 and 2021, voters 
last November approved a ballot measure by an almost 70% margin that was 
supposed to stop walkouts. Lawmakers with 10 or more unexcused absences would 
be disqualified from reelection in the next term, according to the measure's 
title and summary.

   But the text of the measure says disqualification applies to "the term 
following the election after the member's current term is completed." 
Republicans are taking that as meaning that boycotters who are up for 
reelection in 2024 could be candidates, since their current terms end in 
January 2025 -- with the disqualification coming for the 2028 election.

   Secretary of State spokesperson Ben Morris said the department is seeking a 
legal opinion from the Oregon Department of Justice and will follow its advice. 
The Justice Department is currently working on the legal opinion, Roy Kaufmann, 
spokesperson for Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum, said in an email Wednesday.

   Republican senators are expected to file court challenges if the secretary 
of state's elections division bars them from registering as candidates in 

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