Walkout threats heighten short session’s feverish pitch
Monday, February 10, 2020
With a backdrop of contentious climate and gun legislation and spirited rallies, the first week of the 2020 legislative session was as active as expected.
The compressed 35-day short session creates a fever pitch of activity like no other. The Capitol’s hallways were filled with grass-roots advocates, and last week it seemed the Oregon State Police presence outnumbered the lobbyists in the building. It was exhilarating. Maneuvering between hearings felt like navigating an obstacle course, with a better Oregon as the prize.
Public K-12 education has relatively few bills, and most are “technical fix” bills. These bills contain minor language adjustments to a previously passed law that is having some implementation challenges — exactly what the short session was designed for along with some budget modifications.
What about the big issues stirring up all the activity? Efforts to control greenhouse gas emissions, known as “cap and invest,” have brought a lot of passionate people on both sides to testify in the Capitol and protest out front.
Last session, the minority Republicans walked out to prevent cap and invest legislation. Without a quorum, legislators couldn't vote on bills and move them along the process. Work ground to a halt.
A walkout this year could hinder some education bills that make necessary fixes. The ramifications depend on the Republicans’ tactics. One possible scenario in the Senate would be that a few Republicans would not walk. All Democrats would have to be on the floor for a vote, including Senate President Peter Courtney, who is recovering from an illness.
Even if the Senate Republicans leave an avenue for the chamber to proceed, the House Republicans could cork up the process. House Republicans have also discussed walking out, and any bill has to pass both chambers to become law.
The first posting deadline was Friday, Feb. 7, and work sessions on bills must be completed by Thursday, Feb. 13, for them to remain alive. All committees are working hard to get bills moving in case the Republican walkout materializes.
We have a few bills that we’re focused on, but this session we’re mostly trying to focus on technical fixes and avoiding any “well intentioned” changes that could redirect funding away from schools or the Student Success Act.