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Boycotting Oregon GOP senators vow to stay away until last day of session

May 23, 2023, 3:02 PM

Hundreds of bills awaiting action in the Oregon Senate are held in a battered bookshelf on the Sena...

Hundreds of bills awaiting action in the Oregon Senate are held in a battered bookshelf on the Senate floor, unable to move forward to a vote because of a protest by Republicans Tuesday, May 23, 2023 in Salem, Ore. The leader of Republican senators whose walkout of the Oregon Senate has prevented a quorum for almost three weeks said Tuesday, May 23, 2023, that they're not coming back until the very last day of the legislative session next month. (AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Andrew Selsky)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Republican senators whose walkout of the Oregon Senate has prevented a quorum for almost three weeks said Tuesday they’re not coming back until the very last day of the legislative session next month.

long-forgotten law, has derailed progress on hundreds of bills, including a sweeping measure on abortion rights and gender-affirming care that the conservatives particularly object to.

An email from Republican leader Sen. Tim Knopp’s office said the Republicans and Independent Sen. Brian Boquist would return on June 25, the end of the legislative session, to pass “bipartisan” budgets and bills.

“We are the last line of defense to hold the majority accountable,” Knopp said.

The crisis in Oregon’s statehouse is a microcosm of the deeply in Montana.

Republicans have boycotted in 2019, 2020 and 2021. This year’s standoff, however, has disqualified nine Republican senators and one Independent from serving as lawmakers in the next term, under a ballot measure approved overwhelmingly by boycott-weary voters last November. After 10 or more unexcused absences, a lawmaker can’t take office in the Legislature, even if the secretary of state’s elections division allows them on the ballot and they win.

The boycotters are expected to challenge the constitutional amendment in court.

Senate President Robert Wagner carried out a roll call again on Tuesday, and again he was two members short of reaching the 20 needed for a quorum of the 30-member Senate. Oregon is one of a few states that require at least two-thirds to be present, instead of a simple majority.

All the Democrats showed up, except one who has an excused absence for health reasons, and only two of the minority Republicans appeared.

Democratic Gov. Tina Kotek has signed a bill to keep funds flowing to state agencies until September if no budget has become law by July 1 and says she doesn’t think the state “is in crisis mode yet.”

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Boycotting Oregon GOP senators vow to stay away until last day of session