SALEM, Oregon – Monday saw Republicans return to the Senate at the state capitol, following a walkout that had left the Democratic supermajority without a quorum last week. That meant the Dems couldn’t pass House Bill 3427, which includes a gross receipts tax on large businesses earmarked for K-12 education.
When they returned, the school funding bill passed on a party-line vote. But getting the Republicans back to the chambers saw the Democrats making some promises. Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) spent last week out of the state in what amounts to, for him, an unprecedented act of civil disobedience. He returned to the comfort of his own office Monday, and told KUMA News about the agreement that allowed him to return.
Hansell stressed that he had not read the formal agreement between the two parties. He did briefly spell out the points that were decided upon, as they were explained to him:
Gun bills: The Senate will not pass any new gun bills this session. Hansell said the majority party agreed not only to kill bills that had been introduced, but to also not bring forth any bills based on the same concept as the killed bills.
Vaccination bill: The current law in Oregon, which allows vaccination exemptions for religious reasons, will stand as written. That means there will be no vote taken on the move to end all but medical exemptions that was mounted in the House of Representatives.
PERS: The Democrats committed to meaningful reform of the Public Employees Retirement System.
Cap & Trade: This measure related to carbon emissions will undergo what is being called a “reset.” Sen. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) will be at the table. Bentz is an expert on cap and trade, but had not been actively consulted by the Democrats on this issue in recent months, Hansell indicated.
In exchange, the Republicans promised not to stage another walkout, which denies the Senate of a quorum. The GOP’s only remaining option to slow down a vote on any bill is to require the measure be read in full. They retained the right to that option.
“The far left is not happy, and the far right is not happy,” Hansell said of the compromise.
As for the business tax for schools, the Senate’s passage of the measure sends it to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature. However, Republicans report that there is increasing discussion in the Oregon legislature to turn the gross receipts tax issue into a ballot measure so the voters can decide. That discussion is reportedly not just coming from GOP lawmakers.