House Republicans Agree to End Walkout to Pass Last-Minute Budget Bills and Funding Priorities

House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, state representative from Canby, announced that her caucus would return to the State Capitol Building on Sunday — the constitutionally mandated deadline for the current short session — to provide quorum and allow for the passage of critical funding bills left hanging in the balance when GOP legislators walked out last week in protest over cap and trade.

Rep. Drazan signaled her and her colleagues general agreement with the funding priorities outlined in a joint statement from Senate President Peter Courtney and House Speaker Tina Kotek, addressing the state’s housing and homelessness crisis, fragmented behavioral health system, looming wildfire season and other targeted investments.

“The House Republican Caucus broadly agrees with the funding priorities identified in yesterday’s press release from Speaker Kotek and President Courtney,” she said in the brief statement. “House Republicans will provide a quorum and the rules suspensions necessary to pass these funding priorities on Sunday, March 8th, before the legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn.”

The final budget bills, as well as policy bills with appropriations, have been worked through the legislative process, including public hearings, written testimony, amendment debates and committee approval. They have all now moved out of the joint budget committee, and are ready for final votes. All they need is a quorum.

“These budgets are remarkable pieces of legislation. They benefit every corner of Oregon – every Oregonian,” said Senate President Courtney said. “The fact that a few members are preventing us from carrying out our oaths of office, preventing us from voting on bills and budgets, is heartbreaking.”

Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. also announced willingness on the part of the GOP senators to return on the final day to pass emergency budget bills.

“After a tumultuous session, Senate Republicans are willing to attend the Sunday floor session to pass emergency budget bills, for example, the relief for flood victims in Eastern Oregon,” he said. “The intent of the short session was to make budget adjustments, and that is what we expect to work on while being fiscally responsible with the hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”

But, in a response released by her office Thursday afternoon, House Speaker Kotek said, essentially, “Not so fast.” The speaker 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.”

“Let me be clear: Every bill that has passed out of committee deserves a vote,” she said. “I will not walk away from my obligation to every Oregonian that we must uphold the democratic process and the rule of law. The only deal I will agree to is if Republicans in both chambers return and agree to take a floor vote on every bill that has earned support through the public process that governs our legislative body.”

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