Senate Republicans disappear, taking vote on Student Success Act with them
Monday, May 13, 2019
The Senate board on Thursday records the chamber’s inability to vote on legislation because it fell short of a quorum. (Photo by Dominique Rossi, Senate Majority Office senior policy adviser)
The Oregon Senate has ground to a halt over the Student Success Act.
Last week, 11 of 12 Oregon Senate Republicans failed to appear for Senate floor sessions, denying the procedurally required quorum and shutting down the chamber.
The Republicans are preventing a vote on the Student Success Act, which would provide $1 billion a year in new revenue dedicated to early learning and K-12 education. The bill, House Bill 3427, has already passed the House on a party-line vote.
Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, was the sole Republican to join the 18 assembled Democratic senators, leaving the Senate one member short of the required 20 to conduct business and vote on bills. Knopp is co-vice chair of the Joint Committee on Student Success. He was part of the process to create the Student Success Act, although he voted against moving it out of committee.
Republican Senate Leader Sen. Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, has said that his party supports expanded funding for education but that he would like to see changes to HB 3427, including sending it to the voters to require that the income generated be spent on education.
This back and forth is part of a larger negotiation between Senate Democrats and Republicans.
Republicans have issued a list of demands, including an agreement to kill a number of bills on gun control, carbon taxes and increased rights for union employees. In news releases and statements, Republicans have said they are using this procedural tool because it is the only option they have.
“The Democratic Party makes it clear that they have the supermajority and they will do as they please,” Baertschiger told The Oregonian.
It is unclear what will happen this week. On Thursday, for the second day in a row, Senate President Peter Courtney looked at 19 senators on the floor and instructed the secretary of the Senate and the state police to please “find me one senator.” Republicans were absent again Friday.
If a deal is not cut, the stalemate could drag on. Courtney could order the Oregon State Police to find, detain and return to the floor the missing senators. That is unlikely, though. Courtney has always disdained such heavy-handed tactics. His most recent statement indicated that the negotiations with the missing Republicans are ongoing and that he hopes to get them back to the floor.
OSBA strongly supports the Student Success Act, which will benefit all Oregon students.
In 2007, upon the opening of the legislative session inauguration of then-Oregon Speaker of the House Jeff Merkley, former Oregon Governor and Senator Mark O. Hatfield told the assembled legislators:
“Years from now Oregonians will not remember how many members of this House of Representatives were Republicans or Democrats. Rather, what they will remember is whether or not you were men and women of good will, men and women who were Oregonians first, and politicians and partisans second.”