Special session drama could hamper Oregon Democrats’ 2022 agenda

In this file photo from September 20, 2021, a handful of senators speak outside the Oregon State Senate as the Oregon Legislature holds a special session to consider a redistribution. The recently concluded redistribution session in the Oregon legislature was marked by a broken deal, a Republican walkout and accusations of “cheating” that rekindled tensions on the State House floor.

Andrew Selsky / AP

The recently concluded special redistribution session in the Oregon legislature was marked by a broken deal, a Republican walkout and accusations of “cheating” that rekindled tensions within State House.

And the fallout from the special session may linger, bleeding into next year’s legislative session.

“It seems to me extremely likely that (the last Special Legislative Session) indicates heightened tensions, polarization and possibly more extreme maneuvering – especially by Republicans – in the state legislature next year,” he said. said Christopher McKnight Nichols, associate professor of history. at Oregon State University.

The 2022 ordinary legislative session already seemed to be filled with friction, as the division between political parties has widened in recent years. While the majority of Democrats hope to continue working on bills relating to racial equity, police reform, immigrant rights and economic recovery from the pandemic, they will need enough Republicans to run for office. Salem so they can do business.

Related: Oregon lawmakers pass plans for new political maps, after Republicans end boycott

And right now, the GOP is not in the mood to welcome the party that they feel overwhelmed.

“The most precious thing we have here is our word,” Republican Representative Suzanne Weber said on the state floor on Monday. “So when the deal broke… I lost confidence, and when the confidence wore off, I really don’t know how this institution can work. “

The most controversial moment in the September redistribution session was when House Speaker Tina Kotek, a Democrat, quashed a power-sharing deal with GOP lawmakers. The deal, reached in April, had given House Republicans an equal voice to redraw the political maps in exchange for them to stop blocking bills with delaying tactics.

The equal division in the House Redistribution Committee essentially gave the minority party a veto over the state’s new political boundaries, which included a sixth seat in the US House.

But Kotek – who announced she was running for governor in 2022 – rescinded the deal on the first day of the special session, saying Republicans were not engaging constructively. “As far as I’m concerned, we’ve held our end of the bargain for as long as we can,” Kotek said at the end of the recut session.

Republicans say they were fooled, while Democrats led the way in passing the cards they wanted.

Related: Oregon’s redistribution fight is over, but the fallout could linger

“She lied and broke her promise not only to us but to Oregonians,” Minority Leader Christine Drazan said.

Republicans walked out first, denying the House a quorum to vote and pass cards. However, GOP lawmakers returned on Monday, when Drazan brought forward a motion for Kotek to be formally censored.

“When she chooses to break a deal made in good faith, it damages the institution,” Drazan said after Democrats adopted new political maps largely on the lines of parties.

Drazan’s motion fell through, 33-14, with Democrats voting against their leader’s discipline and two Republicans choosing to leave the chamber.

But hurt relationships and broken trust have some wondering if frustrations in the House will have an impact on next year’s legislative session.

Kotek declined to speculate, stating “I take on one challenge at a time.” But the Democrat did not hesitate to blame the heightened tension that has marked the House in recent years.

“I have had my challenges with the Republican leadership, but not at the level I had with Leader Drazan,” Kotek said, noting that she has led the chamber through nine regular sessions and six special sessions.

Drazan said in an interview with The Associated Press that if “the divisions grow bigger and the majority and minority statuses more and more separate,” it “will hurt Oregon.”

“It seems to me that every indicator right now is that it’s going to be a much more intense and tense environment. And much more politicized – even more than it has been, increasing the likelihood of walkouts and the likelihood of allegations of bullying and unconstitutional behavior, ”said McKnight Nichols.

Related: “OPB Politics Now”: the closing of the redistribution and the future of civility in the state house

The divide in the Oregon legislative chambers has widened in recent years – as the minority party says they are not being heard and Democrats argue Republicans are not ready to compromise.

Republicans have relied on delay and walkout tactics, halting action on State Capitol in recent years.

In May 2019, a series of walkouts by Republican senators began blocking a school funding tax. They returned after Democrats struck down gun control bills and another that would have limited religious exemptions from vaccines. The following month, Republicans again failed to show up on Capitol Hill to stop a cap-and-trade bill.

Walkouts and delay tactics continued in 2020 and 2021.

If Republicans seek to sway next year’s session with parliamentary delays or walkouts, this could be their last opportunity, as a coalition of Democratic allies has started taking action on the 2022 poll that would penalize lawmakers for blocking legislative action by walking away, and effectively eliminating their ability to demand that bills be read in full.

As Republicans criticized the broken Kotek deal, the fallout also spurred the state on. Representative Janelle Bynum, a Democrat, announced that she would sue the House again, saying “repair work” had to be done.

“If the session has proven anything, it’s that we need a reset,” Bynum wrote in a Facebook post on Tuesday.

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Cline is a member of the Associated Press / Report for America Statehouse News Initiative Corps. Report for America is a national, nonprofit service program that places reporters in local newsrooms to cover undercover issues.

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