▶️ Knopp on Senate walkout: ‘Willing to risk the penalty’ of reelection ban

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Oregon Senate Majority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, said Friday he and his fellow senators who have prevented a quorum during a two-week floor boycott are prepared for the risk of being barred from re-election. Knopp stands firm that he believes the Senate president is breaking the law, which is what he says is prompting the ongoing walkout.

Knopp and nine other senators — eight Republican and one independent — have now reached 10 unexcused absences from the Senate floor. Under Measure 113, approved by 68.3% of Oregon voters last November, legislators with 10 unexcused absences are prevented from serving again immediately after their current term finishes.

The walkout began May 3. It has prevented the senate from achieving a two-thirds majority for floor actions, which is required under state law. It also started shortly before bills on guns, abortion and gender-affirming care were expected to get a vote.

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In an interview with Central Oregon Daily News Friday, Knopp said he and his fellow Republicans are still in Salem and doing business other than allowing for a quorum on the Senate floor. Their absence is due to what Knopp says is unlawful actions by Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego.

“The issue is the unlawful, uncompromising and unconstitutional actions of the Senate president, and that involves many issues and multiple number of bills that the Senate president decided that he wanted to move forward and doesn’t believe he has to follow the rules or have to follow Oregon law,” Knopp said. “And we believe that the Constitution requires that he does.”

Here is our full interview with Knopp. The article continues below it.

 

The readability rule

Among Knopp’s demands has been the insistence that bill summaries be written at an eighth-grade level. He and other Republicans are citing a long forgotten 1979 “readability” law that a GOP Senate staffer discovered in the archives in April.

“So there’s clearly a Senate rule that requires that bills be read at a certain grade level and that law is being violated and there isn’t any question about it,” Knopp said. “In fact, the judge who denied the temporary restraining order said that if he had to decide, he would say that it is, in fact, unlawful. So there’s no question that that’s the case.”

Knopp said Friday that “every single bill” is unlawful due to the readability rule. He also said the Democratic majority has killed all 37 Republican bills.

Wagner and Democrats have suggested the walkout is about Republicans opposing bills they don’t like.

“If the voters wanted different policies, they would have voted that way,” Wagner said when the roll call was made on Thursday. “That is how a democracy works. The majority of the members here of this body campaigned on reproductive health care, on equal rights for all, on gun violence prevention.”

Wagner has previously said the bill on abortion and trans-affirming care is not negotiable. Republicans object, in particular, to a provision that would allow doctors to provide an abortion to anyone regardless of age, and would bar them in certain cases from disclosing that to parents.

Bipartisan bills

What about the fate of bills that have strong bipartisan support — approved of by both Republicans and Democrats? Knopp says those will still pass.

“We’re not holding up bipartisan bills. Those bipartisan bills, if they’re substantially bipartisan, we will suspend the rules and we will suspend reading on them and they will end up passing,” said Knopp.

Some bipartisan bills include:

  • HB 3101 – Alyssa’s Law, which would require panic buttons in every school classroom that can send an immediate alert to law enforcement when there is perceived safety threat within the school building
  • HB 2395 – increases the availability of Narcan and Naloxone, overdose reversing treatment
  • HB 2147 – ensures unclaimed remains of veterans or survivors of veterans have honorable burial
  • HB 2295 – broadens public contracting preference for veteran-owned businesses
  • HB 2522 – addresses wildfire prevention by establishing Rural Structural Fire Protection Review Committee

Measure 113

On Measure 113, Knopp says he believes there’s a reasonable chance it will be overturned. The measure amends the Oregon Constitution, but Knopp says a state constitution can’t violate the U.S. Constitution.

“So the Measure 113, we think the language of that is both confusing to the public and likely unconstitutional at the federal level and will be challenged in multiple ways,” Knopp said.

But, the majority leader says he and the 12 other senators went into this boycott fully aware of what may happen.

“When we moved down this road, we all agreed — we, the 13 — agreed that we were willing to risk the penalty to defend democracy,” Knopp said. “And you can’t just have a lawless legislature where they follow the rules they want to and they follow the laws that they want to. And then, you know, they just pick and choose. That’s not the way the process works. And so when they become lawful, we will be able to, I think, make progress.”

Knopp said he believes the measure would not have received 68.3% voter approval had there been more opposition to it ahead of the November 2022 election.

“The measure was brought forward by the public employee unions and Planned Parenthood and Rob Wagner and (Former Oregon Governor) Kate Brown. And it was fully funded by them. There was zero opposition to the measure. And had there been opposition and money spent against that, it wouldn’t have gotten 68%,” Knopp said.

He says Measure 113 will still have to face a legal challenge, even though it is now the law. 

Knopp adds that he’s heard from thousands of Oregonians supporting their boycott.

“So we believe the people of Oregon are with us and we’re willing to risk the penalty if necessary,” Knopp said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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