House will no longer read aloud every bill
A staring contest between majority Democrats and minority Republicans in the House finally ended Wednesday after two Republican state representatives broke with the rest of their party.
Since late April, the House's 22 Republicans had been requiring nearly every bill to be read in full before a vote, dramatically slowing the pace at which the chamber considered legislation. It's one of the few tools available to the "super-minority," as two-thirds of legislators need to agree in order to suspend the rules and allow bills to be voted on without a full reading.
Republican Reps. Mike Nearman of Independence and Bill Post of Keizer announced Wednesday morning they would no longer support the month-long slowdown tactic. Along with Rep. Greg Smith, R-Heppner, they joined Democrats to suspend the rule.
"I think we're all ready to vote and go home," Post said in a joint press release with Nearman. "It's time to move on and face the music of a supermajority."
Nearman and Post aren't moderates — in fact, they're among the most conservative legislators in Salem. But they argued in their press release that Democrats have "already passed their main priorities," meaning there's no point in continuing to hold up the business of the House.
"I was sent here to vote on bills and best represent my district," Post stated.
OPB reported that Smith hadn't intended to join Nearman, Post and the Democrats. He said he was distracted and voted "aye" by accident.
The Republicans backed down in the face of an escalation in scheduling by Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, who began calling floor sessions as many as three times per day last week. The House has also begun meeting on Fridays, typically a day off unless it has urgent business, and a Saturday floor session has been scheduled this week.
More floor time was only partially effective in reducing the backlog of bills, most of them technical or otherwise uncontroversial, before the House. By Wednesday, when Nearman and Post announced an end to the slowdown, the House had more than 110 bills on its agenda to vote on.
Rep. Marty Wilde, D-Eugene, has clashed with Nearman and Post in the past. But he thanked them Wednesday, Tweeting that their decision to stand down and allow bills to be voted on without a full reading "will give us more time to work on building consensus on the more contentious issues before us."
The Legislature is required to approve a budget and finish its work by the end of June.