▶️ Knopp reacts to end of Oregon Senate walkout; abortion and gun bills pass

Tim Knopp

One day after Republicans ended the longest walkout in the history of the Oregon legislature, Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp of Bend said the six-week boycott was worth it.

The Republican boycott, which prevented the state Senate from reaching a two-thirds quorum needed to pass bills, was prompted by a sweeping measure on abortion and gender-affirming care that Republicans called too extreme. The measure would allow doctors to provide abortions regardless of a patient’s age, with medical providers not required to notify the parents of a minor in certain cases.

As part of the deal to end the walkout, Democrats agreed to change language concerning parental notifications for abortion.

Under the compromise, if an abortion provider believes notifying the parents of a patient under 15 years old would not be in that patient’s best interest, the physician would not have to notify the parents — but would need another provider to concur. However, no second opinion would be needed if involving a parent or guardian would lead to the abuse or neglect of the patient.

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Democrats said the measure will still ensure abortion access and protect caregivers from anti-abortion or gender-affirming care measures passed by other states. It will also require that health insurance covers medically necessary gender-affirming care.

Democrats also agreed to drop several amendments on a bill that would punish the manufacturing or transferring of undetectable firearms. The now-removed clauses would have increased the purchasing age from 18 to 21 for semiautomatic rifles and placed more limits on concealed carry.

The bills that were changed and approved in the Senate. Those bills now head back to the house for a vote.

Knopp said the walkout was a win for Oregonians.

“Of course, we believed the principles that we stood for, which is a lawful constitutional session with bipartisanship and making sure that parental rights were restored were principles that were worth the risk. So we believe that Oregonians won through this walkout,” said Knopp.

Knopp also said the Senate addressed the issue of the readability of the bills — which is what launched the walkout. The 1979 law specifically requires bill summaries to have an eighth- or ninth-grade reading level — measured by a score of at least 60 on something called the Flesch readability test. It’s unclear if it was ever followed or consulted for past bill summaries, but it was dusted off recently by a Republican Senate employee who dug it out the Capitol archives.

But even with the walkout over, Knopp and his Republican colleagues plus one independent are at risk of not being able to defend their seats.

After GOP lawmakers boycotted the Oregon Legislature in 2019, 2020 and 2021, voters last November approved a ballot measure by an almost 70% margin that was supposed to stop walkouts. Lawmakers with 10 or more unexcused absences would be disqualified from being reelected in the next term, according to the measure’s title and summary.

But the text of the measure says disqualification applies to “the term following the election after the member’s current term is completed.” Republicans are taking that as meaning that boycotters who are up for reelection in 2024 could be candidates, since their current terms end in January 2025 — with the disqualification coming for the 2028 election.

The wording of the measure’s text — and not the more succinct title or summary — is now part of the state constitution.

A lawyer hired by a political action committee called “Oregon’s 13 Constitutional Defense Fund” — a reference to Oregon’s 12 Senate Republicans and Independent Sen. Brian Boquist — asked Acting Secretary of State Cheryl Myers to rule that Knopp and Boquist can run in the 2024 election, and serve terms starting in January 2025 if they win.

Secretary of State spokesperson Ben Morris has previously said the department is seeking a legal opinion from the Oregon Department of Justice and will follow its advice. 

Democrats are now suggesting a change in the legislature’s quorum laws to defer future walkouts. Rep. Emerson Levy, D-Bend, said on social media that she supports a ballot initiative to change the laws to a simple majority.

More than 40 Oregon Democratic House and Senate members sponsored a joint resolution proposing an amendment to the state Constitution to require a simple majority of each chamber in the legislature to be present to conduct business.

Oregon voters would get the final say on that rule change.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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