Republicans’ disappearance strands some important bills
Monday, June 24, 2019
The legislative session was looking as if it was nearing the finish line, but in a surprising turn of events, the Senate Republicans have once again vacated the building, this time in protest of the expansive cap-and-trade bill.
On Tuesday, Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. stated that he and his caucus were prepared to “take action” to prevent the passage of the climate change bill that is a top priority for Democrats this session. On Wednesday, Gov. Kate Brown stated that she was prepared to send the state troopers to bring senators back to the Capitol, as well as hold a special session to complete the session’s outstanding issues.
As promised, there were no Republican senators in sight Thursday. A dejected Senate President Peter Courtney addressed a Senate floor, devoid of its 11 Republican senators, saying that his “heart was broken” and called for Brown to send the state troopers to bring two senators to the floor for a quorum.
Work in the Senate has stalled, but the House continues to work through its long backlog of bills in hopes that the Senate comes back before the end of session. If the Senate Republicans do not return to the Capitol by the end of session, major bills such as paid family leave and a tobacco tax and many other important bills will die.
Paid family medical leave, House Bill 2005, passed the House on Thursday, 45-13. The heavily negotiated bill was a compromise between business and labor as part of the larger negotiations that resulted in some business organizations staying neutral on the Student Success Act.
Before heading to the House floor, Ways and Means appropriated $15.6 million to the Oregon Employment Department for start-up costs for the leave program, including limited and permanent positions. OED will report to the Legislature in February 2020 and present updates on implementation and identify funding and staff needs.
Some bills OSBA has been tracking await third readings in the Senate. HB 2024directs the Early Learning Division to establish a program to improve access to high-quality infant and toddler care for families at or below 200% of the federal poverty line. HB 2025 establishes the Preschool Promise Program within the Early Learning Division of the Oregon Department of Education. Senate Bill 155 requires that all investigations involving sexual conduct by school employers or other individuals interacting with children in a school setting be reviewed by the Teacher Standards and Practices Commission.
If the Senate doesn’t vote on the bills before it must close June 30, then the bills would die, and the process would have to start over in another session.