Senate negotiations continue with less than two weeks to go in session

Republicans oppose provisions in bills on abortion rights and guns

By: - June 12, 2023 4:56 pm

Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, presides over the Senate on May 31, 2023, as the GOP-led walkout entered its 19th day. Democratic and Republican lawmakers are in negotiations to end the walkout. (Ben Botkin/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

Lawmakers are scrambling to negotiate an agreement that will end the Republican-led Senate walkout with less than two weeks to go before the session ends on June 25.

On Monday, it was unclear whether – or when – Democrats and Republicans might reach a deal to persuade GOP senators to return to floor sessions. Since May 3, the Senate has been unable to conduct business or vote on bills that would address homeless, affordable housing, mental health and education, among others.

Talks will continue on Tuesday, Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, told the Capital Chronicle in a brief interview.

“I think there’s always room for hope,” he said as he exited the State Capitol building shortly after 5 p.m. Monday.

Knopp declined to talk about the specifics of the proposals.

Republican senators walked out in part over House Bill 2002, which shores up abortion rights and access to transgender care. For Republicans, a key sticking point on that proposal is language that would allow minors of any age to access abortions without parental notification. Republican senators want courts to make that determination in cases involving  parental abuse, while abortion rights proponents, including physicians, want that decision to stay between the doctor and patient.

OPB reported Monday, and the Capital Chronicle confirmed, that Democrats are considering softening language that would allow a child of any age to receive an abortion without parental consent. Another proposal under consideration includes potential changes to drastically pare down House Bill 2005, a firearms bill, by eliminating provisions that would raise the minimum age to purchase most firearms from 18 to 21 and allow local agencies to ban firearms on government-owned property. Those changes would only keep in place the proposed ban on ghost guns, which lack serial numbers and cannot be tracked by law enforcement.

Yet another proposal would kill Senate Joint Resolution 33, a proposed constitutional amendment that would put the right to an abortion, same-sex marriage and transgender health care in the state constitution. If passed, it would go to Oregon voters.

However, Senate sources said there is no deal yet and proposals can rapidly change in a fluid environment as talks proceed between Republican and Democratic senators. 

In a rare move, Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, gaveled out the floor session on Monday without taking attendance. The procedural move means the senators who usually participate in the walkout each day will not face the $325 daily fines for today.  The move also signals that the Senate may be close to negotiating a deal that will end the walkout.

Wagner and other Democratic leaders were unavailable to answer questions on Monday.

Aides said legislative leaders were in meetings throughout the day and uncertain when talks will progress further.

Senate sources also said no amendments to bills have been sent to House members with talks continuing.


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Ben Botkin
Ben Botkin

Ben Botkin covers justice, health and social services issues for the Oregon Capital Chronicle. Ben Botkin has been a reporter since 2003, when he drove from his Midwest locale to Idaho for his first journalism job. He has written extensively about politics and state agencies in Idaho, Nevada and Oregon. Most recently, he covered health care and the Oregon Legislature for The Lund Report. Botkin has won multiple journalism awards for his investigative and enterprise reporting, including on education, state budgets and criminal justice.