Was the walkout in the Oregon legislature different than previous ones?

PORTLAND, Ore. (KGW) — The longest walkout in Oregon legislative history ended late last week as Democratic and Republican leadership in the Senate hashed out a deal to provide a quorum in the chamber for the first time in six weeks.

It was a compromise that left some people unhappy on both sides of the aisle, though legislative leaders all proclaimed it a victory for Oregonians. Four Republican senators and one Independent have continued to shun the Senate chamber, preferring to continue their protest.

Here’s a quick rundown of the final compromise that ended the stalemate.

RELATED: In ending the walkout, what did Oregon Senate Republicans and Democrats agree to?

First and foremost, there’s House Bill 2002. As originally passed in the House, the bill would have allowed a child under the age of 15 to get an abortion without parental permission. After insisting for weeks that HB 2002 was untouchable, Democrats agreed to compromise on that part of the bill.

The new version, which has now passed the Senate, only allows abortions without parental permission if a doctor agrees that notifying the parents would be dangerous to the child, or in slightly wider circumstances if they get a second opinion from another clinician. Funding for mobile abortion clinics in rural areas and abortion care at public universities was taken out of the amended bill as well.

The bill will make clear that abortion is both legal and protected in Oregon. It also requires insurance companies to cover gender-affirming care.

Second, the compromise changed House Bill 2005, a gun control bill. As passed in the House, the bill made untraceable “ghost guns” illegal, but it also raised the age to buy a gun from 18 to 21 (with some exceptions) and allowed cities to prohibit all guns in public buildings and on public grounds.

Post-deal, HB 2005 was cut down to just the ghost gun provisions.

The deal also resulted in Senate Joint Resolution 33 being sent off to purgatory in the Senate rules committee, where Republicans say it will die. Under its latest form, SJR 33 would have have asked voters to amend the Oregon Constitution where it still defines marriage as being between a man and a woman.

Senate Bill 348 and Senate Bill 393 are also dead. They represented technical changes to voter-approved gun control law Measure 114, currently held up in court, and a directive to the Oregon Criminal Justice Commission to study the effect of different sentencing types on crime recidivism rates.

Republicans reportedly agreed as part of the deal that, were Measure 114 to be upheld in court, they will not walk out in 2024 to stop the bill that implements it. There’s also an agreement that if Measure 114 goes through, the state will hand Oregon State Police $7 million to get the necessary permitting and background check systems up and running.

Finally, House Republicans claimed that many bills will have their summaries reworked in order to pass a long-forgotten test adopted by the legislature that requires they be readable at an 8th grade level. Thus far, there have been no signs that this is happening.

RELATED: Republicans cite Oregon’s arcane legislative readability standards for stance against bill

Though the Senate adopted a rule during the walkout charging senators $325 per unexcused absence — which is roughly what lawmakers earn in a day — the Democratic leadership opted to waive those fines. They did not, however, do anything to clear the unexcused absences themselves, which will likely be a problem for the 10 conservative senators who ran afoul of Measure 113.

Voters approved the measure last November, and it disqualifies lawmakers from holding the same office again if they reach 10 or more unexcused absences.

The ghosts of walkouts past

With the walkout at an end, The Story’s Pat Dooris had a chance to talk to the longest-serving Senate president in Oregon history, the now-retired Peter Courtney. In his time, Courtney saw several of these walkouts — and in some cases helped to bring them to an end.

“I think there’s relief …. I do think there’s hard feelings. You can tell it. There’s not — they’re not giving each other hugs and things. They gotta deal with that,” Courtney said of the latest walkout’s end. “But you know, when you consider how hard it is on you when you do these walkouts, and how much it strains the institution when its over, there’s a tremendous relief.”

Courtney said that now that lawmakers are in the final week of the session, things will move very quickly.

“Very chaotic, very tough on the staff. Your staff — the staff of the House and the Senate — it gets crazy because they’ve got to get documents from one chamber to another chamber,” Courtney said. “They’ve got to have paperwork … you’ve got to constantly take recesses to let things catch up. So its a very hectic time, very hectic.”

“And is there a lot of opportunity for last-minute mischief?” Dooris asked him.

“Well, as long as the legislature’s in session, there’s always an opportunity for mischief,” Courtney replied. “It’s by nature a body that’s been known for mischief, and that will never change. So I would say, you always gotta be on guard regarding mischief, horseplay, things of that nature — it’s just the nature of the institution.”

Dooris also touched base with Betsy Johnson, who resigned from the legislature ahead of the 2022 election in order to run for governor as an unaffiliated candidate. Back in 2001, Johnson was a Democrat in the state House of Representatives when they staged a walkout.

RELATED: Here’s a list of every walkout held in the Oregon Legislature

“We were told the police could come and get us,” Johnson recalled. “I had checked into a hotel in downtown Portland with a credit card. The caucus called me and said, ‘How did you check in to that hotel?’ Well, I used a credit card. ‘Oh they can track you!’  And so I ended up being checked into a no-tell motel out by Portland International in my best friend’s name, paid for with cash. And it convinced me that I would make a miserable felon on the run.”

Johnson said that it was a scary experience, being on the lam from the legislature.

There was a similar tenor during the Republican walkout of 2019, when then-Gov. Kate Brown authorized state police to track down delinquent senators. The most recent walkout has been different — for the most part, Republicans never left the capitol. Democrats seemed loathe to use the power of the state police this time around, although they didn’t rule it out.

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