Democrats Reject Republicans’ Offer to Return for a Day; Abruptly End 2020 Legislative Session

It’s over. A tumultuous short session for the Oregon Legislature came to an abrupt end Thursday afternoon, after lawmakers failed to come to an agreement that would end the Republican walkout and restore quorum. The constitutionally mandated final day would have been Sunday, March 8.

In one of, no doubt, many statements to come, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, the state representative for Canby, said she was “shocked” by House Speaker Tina Kotek’s decision to end the session prematurely.

“We still had time to pass necessary funding items to address the needs of Oregonians across the state, but Democratic leaders chose to sacrifice these budget bills and shared priorities in the name of their no-compromise approach to cap-and-trade,” she said. “The supermajority set the agenda for this session, they inexplicably refused to allow Oregonians to vote on cap-and-trade, and they own this failed outcome.”

Republican leaders in both chambers had offered to return on the session’s final day to pass emergency budget bills and other critical funding priorities addressing the state’s housing and homelessness crisis, fragmented behavioral health system, looming wildfire season and other targeted investments.

But Speaker Kotek said she was not interested in hosting the absentee Republicans in a one-day floor session where they would “would get to cherry pick which bills live and die.”

“Speaker Kotek’s unwillingness to work toward a bipartisan resolution on Sunday proves the lack of good faith effort on her part and further proves this session was rigged from the start,” Rep. Drazan said. “Democrats chose to punish their political opponents over serving the needs of Oregonians.”

On the flip side, House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner, from Portland, lauded House Speaker Kotek, Senate President Peter Courtney and Gov. Kate Brown for their leadership throughout the session, including the 11-day walkout by the Republican caucus that began last week.

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“By walking out of the legislative session 11 days ago, Republicans created this mess,” she said. “They have misled, they have negotiated in bad faith and they have left their constituents hanging in the wind. Their continued obstruction has left us out of time to address not only climate change legislation, but funding for wildfires, rural school districts and so much more.”

Gov. Brown lashed Republican lawmakers over their latest walkout, saying it “has badly damaged Oregon’s legislative branch.”

“That’s not how democratic representation works,” she said. “First, it was about education funding, then about climate change. Every time they don’t like something, they just get up and leave. That’s not compromise. It’s holding Oregonians hostage to ultimatums and political posturing.”

Gov. Brown said she would be open to calling a special session to pass critical budget bills and funding measures for wildfires, foster care, flood relief for Pendleton and other state programs, but only if “legislative leaders bring me a plan for a functioning session.”

She also signaled her plans to take executive action on climate change, a move House Majority Leader Smith Warner said she understands and supports.

“I have always been clear that a legislative solution was my preferred path to tackle the impacts of climate change for the resources it would bring to our rural communities and the flexibility it would provide for our businesses,” the governor said. “However, I will not back down. In the coming days, I will be taking executive action to lower our greenhouse gas emissions.”

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