A political version of an ‘atmospheric river’ descended over the Oregon Capitol this week, threatening to grind the legislative session to a halt and endangering a plethora of bills awaiting action in the Senate. The week kicked off with the stunning news that Secretary of State Shemia Fagan was resigning after a slew of reports surfaced about moonlighting as a cannabis consultant that conflicted with her public responsibilities.
Fagan, who is responsible for overseeing the state’s audit division, accepted a large sum of money to work for a company whose interests were the subject of an audit. Questions swirled over the influence Fagan may have played to sway the recommendations that might benefit her new client’s business interests.
The resignation will undoubtedly fuel the ambitions of many in the legislature who will jockey to replace Fagan. As this is Kentucky Derby week, it’s fitting that the lineup of contenders is generating bets by political observers as to which horse has the best chance of winning the nod of Governor Tina Kotek, who will name a successor to fill the remainder of Fagan’s term. The speculation may threaten the immediate task of getting the legislative process back on track.
Walkout in the Senate
Senate Republicans staged a walkout midweek, pulling every procedural motion out of the hat to delay consideration of two hotly contested bills that have already moved off the Oregon House floor. One is presented as an approach to curb gun violence by adding regulations to the creation of ‘ghost guns,’ raising the age limit for certain firearms, and limiting access to certain public places for those with concealed weapons.
The other bill, HB 2002, is a basket of issues designed to strengthen abortion access and family-related services, from contraception to access by minors to abortion, while expanding gender identity laws and more.
Senate Republicans went to court to test procedural rulings denied by Senate leadership. The court immediately denied requests to intervene. Senate President Rob Wagner responded by taking the unusual step of calling the Senate into session over the weekend to further test Republican’s walkout agenda.
Deadlines Keep Churning Forward
This all happened as we hit the second chamber work session posting deadline on Friday, setting up a two-week scramble to get bills into a work session and back to their chamber for passage. With the clock running on the constitutionally limited session, many measures are now being threatened, not by their substance, but by whether they can beat the clock before Sine Die.