News (USA)

Oregon GOP senators are boycotting their jobs to obstruct vote on trans-friendly bill

The Oregon Senate chamber at the Oregon Capitol
The Oregon Senate chamber at the Oregon Capitol Photo: Shutterstock

Republican senators in the Oregon legislature have come up with a novel idea to obstruct a pair of progressive bills sponsored by Democrats addressing gender-affirming healthcare, abortion rights, and gun safety.

They’re not showing up for work.

The state senate Republicans’ walkout is denying Democratic leadership a quorum and with it the ability to vote on the two wide-ranging bills.

Democrats hold a majority of seats in the Oregon Senate, 17 to 12, with one independent.

Two-thirds of state house and senate members need to be present for the respective chamber to conduct business. Ten Republicans and the senate’s lone independent haven’t shown up for business since Monday.

Republicans are basing their boycott on an obscure 1979 law that requires all legislative summaries to be written in plain English, specifically a score of 60 or higher on the Flesch readability test, which equates to text readable for an 8th or 9th grader.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp (R) told the AP a staff member discovered the rarely — if ever — used law last month.

Now the GOP is “weaponizing” it, according to Democratic Senate Majority Leader Kate Lieber, to justify sitting out senate business and preventing a vote on Democrats’ two marquee pieces of legislation.

“It’s about every bill,” claimed Knopp. “But those bills specifically also don’t qualify under this law, and they refuse to fix them,” he added, referring to Democratic leadership.

The bill on abortion and gender-affirming care would shield patients and medical providers from lawsuits originating in states like Texas, where that care has been criminalized. The legislation expands insurance coverage for gender-affirming health care by prohibiting insurers from classifying medically necessary gender dysphoria treatment as cosmetic procedures.

It also requires publicly funded universities and community colleges to provide emergency contraception and medical abortion.

The most controversial provision, which Democrats say addresses a rare scenario, allows doctors to provide an abortion to anyone regardless of age, barring them from disclosing the procedure to parents in certain instances.

Opponents say it’s a denial of “parents’ rights.”  

The gun control measure raises the age limit to 21 for the purchase of AR-15-style rifles and similar weapons and imposes new penalties for possessing undetectable firearms. It also limits concealed-carry rights for licensed gun owners.

The sweeping healthcare bill passed the state house on Monday; the gun safety bill on Tuesday.

Three days into their boycott, Republicans could find themselves imperiling not only the Democrats’ progressive legislation, but their own legislative careers.

A new ballot measure approved by voters in November bars Oregon lawmakers from running for reelection if they have 10 or more unexcused absences.

Oregon’s legislative session runs through late June.

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