Kotek Ends House Delay With Closed-Door Negotiation

Oregon State Capitol at Sunset

House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) told reporters on Monday, June 3, that she negotiated an end to the Republican obstruction tactic of forcing all legislation to be read aloud. However, she was opaque about what she promised the minority, other than suggesting she may allow Republicans to amend the pending statewide cap-and-trade system. 

Kotek told reporters that the details of her conversations with Wilson were “private,” but said “it’s not so much bills that die, but bills that members want or budget priorities for members.” 

This is still significant, as the budget process is almost as important as the legislative process in deciding which bills are actually funded and implemented after passage. For example, reporting this week showed a bill to overhaul the state’s hate crime reporting laws had come to a standstill in the budget committee, even though it has already passed both chambers.  

The month-long delay used an arcane procedural rule that allowed Republicans to force hundreds of pages of legislation read aloud before any other business on the bills could continue. This backed up the legislative schedule to the point that six-day weeks and night sessions became the norm in May. Before that, Republicans staged a walkout from the Senate in April that completely froze the business of the state until their demands were met. 

During the April showdown, Governor Kate Brown intervened, cutting in half an education funding bill and killing gun control and public health legislation to bring Republicans back to their jobs. This time, Speaker Kotek and House Minority Leader Rep. Carl Wilson (R-Grants Pass) have remained silent on the details of the negotiations.  

Kotek claims the negotiations were to address Republicans’ “not [feeling] that they were heard.” She acknowledged to reporters that her efforts to make Republicans feel “heard” may end up with perceived victories for them, and could very well help their electoral chances in 2020.  

By Ian MacRonald