As of Monday, 127 bills were sitting in the Oregon state Senate awaiting a vote. It seems the majority of them will die where they sit due to the continued absence of a group of Republican (and one former Republican, now independent) senators.
With Bend's own state senator, Sen. Tim Knopp, part of the cadre that is now ineligible to hold state legislative office due to Measure 113, we have to wonder where this is all going.
Sen. Knopp's most recent term began in 2021 and goes for four years, putting him in office through 2024. The language of Measure 113, now a part of Oregon's Constitution, states that legislators who are unexcused 10 times in a session become disqualified from holding office in the subsequent term.
Here in Bend, which has voted squarely blue for at least the last several elections, voters have thus far voted to retain Knopp. Now that he's ineligible to hold office next time, several others — Democrat and Republican — will likely step in to run. If overall local voting patterns hold, Knopp is likely to be replaced by a Democrat. Is this what Republicans want?
Right now there's chatter about Republicans taking the issue to court and seeking to overturn Measure 113. That issue could move all the way up to the Oregon Supreme Court, or even the U.S. Supreme Court before it's resolved – but that process could take years, and civil liberties lawyers don't believe the measure has much of a chance of being overturned. In the meantime, Knopp will lose his minority-leader status. Furthermore, this seat that's gone to a Republican for many years in the state Senate could now go to a Bend Democrat. Is this what Republicans want?
Walkouts are now part of a coordinated strategy by Republicans, but we have to wonder why they didn't inform voters of the reasons to support the strategy during the election cycle. Looking back at the language of Measure 113 and how it appeared in the voters' pamphlet, a host of unions, trade organizations and state leaders submitted arguments in favor of the measure. Zero organizations or others submitted arguments against. It would appear that Republicans are not playing the long game here. They certainly must have known that there would be proposed legislation they would not like this session, and so this whole strategy feels poorly planned. We find it hard to believe that this was something that politicians, especially vulnerable ones like Knopp, thought through.
The walkouts have now gone on in 2019, 2020, 2021 and 2023. They've stalled progress on a host of bills, and also garnered embarrassing national media attention. It's hard to imagine this attention is worthwhile at the expense of local political ambitions. Is this really what Republicans wanted?
On Tuesday, Knopp issued a statement on behalf of Senate Republicans, saying they plan to return to the Senate floor on June 25 – the last day of the session – to pass the state budget and prevent the state government from being unable to pay its bills.
Knopp included a statement so ironic it is hard not to again wonder at the fundamental strategy:
"Democrat leadership including President Wagner are threatening to shut down the government if they don't get their way. That is no way to govern."
At least there are no questions to answer regarding that last point. We can all agree: This really is no way to govern.