Page by page, bills progress slowly in House
Republicans continue to slow down proceedings in the Oregon House of Representatives, requiring bills to be read in full before a vote for a third straight week.
Much of the week on the House floor was consumed with the reading of Senate Bill 360. While the bill itself is technical and not particularly controversial — it adjusts and clarifies some language in state laws regarding nonprofit groups — it was the perfect instrument for minority Republicans to make their presence felt.
SB 360 weighs in at 62 pages long. Back on March 11, it took about two and a half minutes for the Senate to consider and approve it on a 24-2 vote.
House clerks started reading the bill on Tuesday. They didn't finish until Thursday, when the House passed the bill unanimously. There was no floor debate.
On Tuesday afternoon, with 11 pages of SB 360 read, Rep. Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland, motioned to adjourn the floor session. It was the first time the House had adjourned midway through consideration of a bill this year, according to Tim Sekerak, the chamber's chief clerk, but he believed it was appropriate, considering that reading the bill would take multiple hours and the House had been scheduled to adjourn for the day.
Reading clerk Lacy Ramirez Gruss picked up on page 12 the next day. She and other clerks read for more than two hours before the House again adjourned for the day, about midway through page 48 of the bill.
Ramirez Gruss resumed and finished the reading of the bill on Thursday.
House Republicans began requiring the reading of bills on April 29, the same day a business tax and education funding package — House Bill 3427, which Gov. Kate Brown signed into law Thursday — passed out of committee, to protest what they argued was the Democratic supermajority's "consistent overreach and lack of transparency."
While the state constitution requires the full text of a bill to be read aloud before it is voted on, the rule can be suspended if 40 representatives agree, and it is customarily suspended without objection.
Forcing bills to be read has significantly slowed down the pace at which the House can vote on bills, Sekerak confirmed.
By Thursday, the House was scheduled to consider 72 bills, nearly all of which originated in the Senate, many of which were non-controversial.
Immediately before SB 360 was taken up for the third day, representatives passed House Bill 2456, legislation sponsored by Rep. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, to allow a limited number of houses to be built on 200 acres in rural Malheur County.
HB 2456 passed on a 37-20 vote. Twenty Democrats voted against the bill, meaning it would have failed by a wide margin without Republican support. All Republicans present voted for it