Oregon Senate Republicans protest COVID restrictions with delay tactics

By Dirk VanderHart (OPB)
April 28, 2021 7:19 p.m.

A day after Gov. Kate Brown announced 15 counties would be subject to stricter COVID-19 restrictions, Senate Republicans said they would require bills be read in full before final passage.

People sit at desks on the floor of the Oregon Senate in the state Capitol building.

A file photo of the Oregon Senate on June 24, 2020.

Pool photo by Brian Hayes / Statesman Journal


With a deal in place between Democrats and Republicans, legislation is moving with speed through the Oregon House of Representatives. But now there are signs of trouble on the other side of the Capitol.

Senate Republicans on Wednesday signaled their intention to require bills be read in full before final passage in protest of the Gov. Kate Brown’s announcement Tuesday that 15 counties would be subject to renewed restrictions in order to stem the resurgent spread of COVID-19 in the state.

“As this session has shown, the Constitutional requirement that legislation be read in its entirety is an important tool to encourage bipartisan collaboration,” a press release from the Senate Republican Caucus stated, an apparent reference to House Republicans’ insistence on reading bills for more than a month. “Senate Republicans stand ready to work with Democrats to reform the Governor’s unchecked powers.”

Related: Surge in COVID-19 hospitalizations triggers new restrictions across much of Oregon

The move marks the second protest Senate Republicans have mounted this year in response to actions by Brown. The caucus staged a one-day no-show in late February, demanding that Brown reopen schools to in-person instruction. Brown wound up issuing an order that schools reopen a little more than a week later, though she offered no suggestion that the Republican maneuver played a role in that decision.


In response to Republicans’ refusal to waive a constitutional requirement that bills be read in full before a final vote, Senate President Peter Courtney, a Democrat, repeated a move first tested in the state House this year: Using computer software to read the bills aloud.

Seeking to stem a surge in coronavirus-related hospitalizations, Oregon’s governor announced Tuesday that 15 counties around the state would be subject to stricter restrictions beginning Friday. Those include a prohibition on indoor dining, a step that has alarmed some restaurant owners who were beginning to resume more normal service.

Related: Oregon restaurants, bars brace for COVID restrictions — again

“My goal is to lift these restrictions as soon as it is safely possible, and keep Oregon on the path for lifting most health and safety requirements by the end of June so we can fully reopen our economy,” Brown said. “But we will only get there if enough Oregonians get vaccinated. There are appointments available right now all across the state.”

The restrictions, coming as COVID-19 spread is decreasing in many other parts of the country and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has announced new guidance for mask usage, were immediately blasted by Republicans.

Related: CDC: If you’re vaccinated, you don’t need to mask outdoors (unless you’re in a crowd)

House Republican Leader Christine Drazan said stepped-up rules were not necessary, and suggested Brown’s administration has failed to effectively distribute vaccines. The state is currently in the middle of the pack nationally, in a ranking of adults who have received at least one shot.

Some lawmakers immediately began urging support for House Joint Resolution 18, a Republican proposal to end the governor’s emergency declaration for COVID-19. Senate Republicans, meanwhile, pointed to three now-dead bills they’d introduced in an attempt to curb Brown’s power.

Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod of Lyons also called on Democrats to help the Legislature end the governor’s emergency declaration.

“We are not obligated to let the Governor railroad Oregonians without accountability and transparency,” Girod said in a statement. “Legislative Democrats have locked people out of their Capitol building, and are actively participating in the Governors’ efforts to lock working Oregonians out of their jobs. With vaccinations ramping up, we should focus on lifting Oregonians up, not putting them out of work.”