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10 Oregon senators now ineligible for re-election as GOP-led walkouts continue

Republicans are protesting bills on reproductive healthcare and gun regulation, while Democrats say the minority should not overrule the will of the majority.

SALEM, Ore. — Ten Oregon senators are now ineligible for re-election after six more senators reached 10 unexcused absences Thursday as part of the ongoing Republican-led walkouts.

Measure 113, a 2020 voter-approved constitutional amendment designed to discourage walkouts and legislative stalls, set the 10 unexcused absence standard to disqualify lawmakers from retaining their seat in the next term.

However, nine Republican senators and one independent have now pushed right past the threat of consequences for not showing up to vote on bills, and Republicans say they plan to challenge Measure 113 in court. 

Senate President Rob Wagner, a Democrat, once again criticized the political power play on Thursday.

“This walkout must end, the people of Oregon desire it, democracy demands it," Wagner said.

Republican Tim Knopp, minority leader in the state Senate, was one of the six senators that joined the list of lawmakers with 10 unexcused absences as of Thursday.

"When we went down this road we all recognized there was a potential risk, and we were willing to take the risk to defend democracy," Knopp said.

Knopp and other Republicans are protesting bills on reproductive healthcare and gun regulation, arguing for more parental rights.

RELATED: Here's what the Oregon bill on abortion, gender-affirming care would actually change

"The idea that we should just be a speed bump while the Democrats move their extreme, unconstitutional and unlawful agenda is odd to me considering the Democrats killed the entire Senate Republican agenda," he said.

Wagner said negotiations between the two sides have been unproductive. He said Democrats will not drop or change bills just because Republicans don’t support them, arguing that voters elected a Democratic majority in the Senate to see these policies passed.

"In a democracy it is imperative the minority should not have the ability to overrule and silence the will of the majority," Wagner said.

Sandy Chung, president of ACLU of Oregon, said lawyers on her team believe Measure 113 will hold up if challenged in court.

"Sometimes it has to be implemented in order for people to understand it’s not simply words but there will be real consequences that are enacted," Chung said.

Proponents of Measure 113 say it has to hold up — 68% of voters passed it for precisely this reason — to stop obstructive walkouts.

"This particular method was considered to be something everyone really understood and the voters were really clear, they really liked it, got behind the idea, and overwhelmingly said, 'Absolutely people should show up to work and if not there should be consequences,'" said Reed Scott-Schwalbach, President of the Oregon Education Association.

Wagner listed several bills that Republicans are protesting: HB 2002, HB 2005, SJR 27 and SJR 33.

He said he will not retroactively change unexcused absences to excused absences in future negotiations, so the 10 senators will now have to take on Measure 113 if they choose to run again. 

Knopp said he and his colleagues plan to come back before the end of the legislative session to approve "lawful, substantially bipartisan budgets and bills."

However, Wagner said he will not let the group of holdouts determine which bills are voted on and which are ignored, setting up another source of contention between the sides.

The next Senate session is on Monday, and there was little indication on Thursday that Democrats and Republicans will talk much over the weekend.

Here's the list of 10 senators who have reached 10 unexcused absences:

  • Daniel Bonham, R-The Dalles
  • Brian Boquist, I-Polk and Yamhill Counties
  • Lynn Findley, R-Vale
  • Bill Hansell, R-Athena
  • Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek
  • Tim Knopp, R-Bend
  • Dennis Linthicum, R-Klamath Falls
  • Art Robinson, R-Cave Junction
  • Kim Thatcher, R-Keizer
  • Suzanne Weber, R-Tillamook

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