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Legibot. No, Really.
A machine is doing the required reading of the bills.

Last week the Oregon House due to confirmation of an individual testing positive for COVID-19. The individual had been present on the House floor on the 15th and 16th. Legislators were notified on the 22nd at the end of the first House floor session of the day. All other House floor sessions for the week were canceled.

This week House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) had planned daily double floor sessions to start moving the flow of backlogged bills. However, Sunday afternoon, Lindsey O’Brien, Chief of Staff for Speaker Kotek sent out an email to members saying in part:

With another confirmed COVID case, floor will be effectively canceled tomorrow (Monday 3/29).

In addition, the Speaker has directed the Clerk to begin using computer software to read lengthy bills upon final passage to further reduce the risk of virus transmission when the House is in session for the purpose of bill reading.

The requirement to read bills aloud before the final vote on the House or Senate floor is imbedded in the 1859 Oregon Constitution. However, it can be suspended by a vote of 2/3 in order to save time. In the House that is 40 votes. In the Senate it is 20.

After the Supermajority Democrats adopted rules this session allowing the Speaker to fine unexcused lawmakers up to $500 a day, essentially ending the walkout option, the Republicans turned to the Constitution to slow the movement of bills. This is one of the few remaining tools available to Republicans, who hold 23 seats in the 60-member House. Last week, House Minority Leader Christine Drazan (R-Canby) reiterated this to Speaker Kotek expressing that bills were moving too fast through committee with little public input. She said, “As long as the building is closed to the public and deeply controversial legislation continues to be fast-tracked in committees, we will continue to depend on the Constitution, to remind the supermajority we should not operate like it’s business as usual while the public is shut out."

This rational has not set well with Democrats. During a floor session earlier this month, House Majority Leader Barbara Smith-Warner (D-Portland), expressed her displeasure with the Republican tactic by stating “It is so disappointing that, yet again, we are being forced to read non-controversial bills on the floor to delay the legislative process. This feels like another tactic designed solely to slow down the process of doing the people’s work”. She went onto say that “the work we are doing here is critical”.

However, just days later, HB 2060, which was only 11 pages long, was read in its entirety and took only approximately 15 minutes. After the reading, Representative Smith-Warner made a motion to send the bill back to the Rules Committee. Representative Smith Warner is Chair of that committee. She noted that “there are a few items in this bill, that given further review, we believe, need some more work, so we are hoping to send it back to rules.” This begs the question; if this bill had not been read in its entirety for the third time before the vote, would the flaw in this bill have

been corrected once it reached the Senate? If adequate time and testimony are being given in committee, why was this not caught before sending it to the floor?

Also, according to a spokesperson for House Speaker Tina Kotek, the rationale behind the computer voice being used for third readings was “to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission for everyone who works in the chamber. However, as the House got back to business on Tuesday morning, the Clerk was present on the floor and continued to read the messages from the Senate, first and second reading of bill titles, of which there were 73, as well as a proposed amendment change to the House Rules. Only the third reading of the bills was placed on the computer.

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

A D V E R T I S E M E N T

When it was time for the 3rd reading of the bills, Representative Power (D-Milwaukie) tried to move the first bill of the day, HB 2111, back to committee in order avoid the mandatory 3rd reading of the bill before the vote. The motion failed on party lines. Motions to rerefer need 40 of the 60 votes.

Rep. Smith-Warner then moved to suspend the rules for the reading of the bill in its entirety for today only, but again the motion failed due to it needing 40 votes.

The computer system then began reading the first bill of the day, HB 2111 which is 170 pages long and “Changes the name of Oregon Liquor Control Commission to Oregon Liquor and Cannabis Control Commission”. As Representative Smith- Warner said, “the work we are doing here is critical”.


--Terese Humboldt

Post Date: 2021-03-30 18:31:30Last Update: 2021-03-30 19:01:34



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