Facing super majorities, what can GOP do?
The big story of the week in Salem was a $2 billion education funding package speeding through the Capitol.
But in the House of Representatives, general proceedings took a turn for the leisurely.
Boxed into "super-minorities" in both the House and Senate — meaning they lack the votes to stop a tax increase without Democratic defectors — the Republican leadership is doing what it can to make the Democrats work for their legislative victories.
Although members of the Joint Student Success Committee already toured several school districts across Oregon when they were coming up with policy ideas for their education package, House Minority Leader Carl Wilson and Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. asked that they hit the road again last month.
"In order to allow Oregonians across the state to learn about this complex and costly proposed legislation that radically alters the way they are taxed and how it will impact the cost of goods and services in Oregon, we ask that you schedule a series of hearings around the state to give the people an opportunity to share with the committee how it will affect their lives," they wrote to Democratic leaders in a letter dated April 17.
The proposal was a non-starter with Democrats. Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland, who co-chaired the Student Success Committee, said committee leaders had already agreed on a self-imposed deadline to move the bill out of committee by the end of April. They beat that deadline with a day to spare, voting it forward on a party-line vote Monday.
House Republicans then turned to another delaying tactic.
"Democrats' consistent overreach and lack of transparency have forced House Republicans to enforce the constitutional requirement of reading bills in their entirety," the caucus declared on its official Twitter account.
On Monday, a handful of representatives took their time to go over the fine details of uncontroversial bills.
After requiring Senate Bill 729, making it easier for adults in long-term care facilities to obtain restraining orders, to be read in full — a process that took about three and a half minutes for the two-page bill — the bill's carrier, Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, waxed rhapsodic about its value for nearly 16 full minutes, speaking slowly and punctuating his remarks with plenty of pauses, before urging his colleagues to vote for it.
Other Republicans joined in, bringing up obscure points in SB 729 to give McLane a chance to spend a few more minutes explaining them.
"I really appreciate your thoughtfulness in answering these questions," said a straight-faced Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, in between queries about how the bill defines "intimidation" and "sweepstakes" that McLane managed to take a combined nine minutes to answer.
McLane's roughly eight-minute closing statement was no less ponderous.
"Senate Bill 729," McLane said, pausing for several seconds to shuffle through his papers, "passed unanimously in the committee. It passed unanimously on the floor of the Senate. And I certainly hope it passes unanimously here today."
The House promptly voted 51-1 in favor of the bill, having devoted nearly an hour to the matter. Rep. Mark Meek, D-Gladstone, was the only dissenting vote