A deal struck on Thursday offered a sign of hope that lawmakers could break the impasse that has caused weeks of slow-down tactics in the House chamber and held up legislation aimed at helping Oregonians.
The progress is incremental, but nonetheless signaled movement in a chamber that has otherwise been slowed to a crawl.
The details: Republicans agreed to waive the rules requiring each bill be read word by word to allow lawmakers to more speedily consider a package of budget rebalancing bills Thursday evening. Republicans have also agreed to waive bill-reading requirements for another largely technical bill that has 75 pages and would take several hours to read.
That means lawmakers will have a chance to consider an ambitious package of bills that includes millions to create homeless shelters around the state and provide wildfire relief for impacted communities. One of the bills includes $250 million for a summer learning and child care package, along with funding for homeless shelters and wildfire recovery.
For weeks, Republicans have been requiring all bills be read in full before a final vote.
House Minority Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby, has called on Democrats to open the Capitol to the public, to kill deeply controversial legislation, move only bills with bipartisan support and give more consideration to Republicans’ input.
On Wednesday, Kotek offered her own proposal to Drazan. In a letter, Kotek asked Drazan to allow lawmakers to consider the budget rebalance bills without them being fully read out loud.
On Thursday, Kotek said she was glad Drazan accepted her offer.
“Oregonians are depending on this essential aid and no one should play politics with this funding,” Kotek said in a statement on Thursday.
The constitution states bills must be read in full before passage. But in previous years, both parties agreed to skip bill reading. It takes two-thirds of members to waive the rule. Republicans have started increasingly voting against waiving the rules, relying on the tactic to slow the overall agenda and maintain leverage over majority Democrats.
“This is the kind of focused work that Oregonians need from us right now, and we will continue to find ways to collaborate on priority issues like a balanced budget,” Drazan said in a statement.