"Are there unintended consequences with this and other bills? Citizens and organizations like Oregon Right to Life will only know if the bill passes and people start to see them in practice."
As of press time, nearly all of Oregon’s pro-life senators are refusing to participate in scheduled floor sessions in protest against multiple bills that are in violation of ORS (Oregon Revised Statute) 171.134. That statute states, “Any measure digest or measure summary prepared by the Legislative Assembly shall be written in a manner that results in a score of at least 60 on the Flesch readability test or meets an equivalent standard of a comparable test.”
The Flesch-Kinkaid readability test is designed to indicate the difficulty of any given passage written in English. The higher the score, the easier it is to understand. The score required by ORS 171.134 is the equivalent of an eighth grade reading level.
Perhaps the best example of the aforementioned statute’s violation is House Bill 2002’s summary. It scores a mere 20 on the Flesch-Kincaid test. Such a low score indicates it’s written at a college graduate reading level.
At each opportunity, citizens and legislators have asked numerous questions about the provisions included in the bill, which stands at 46 pages. Representatives of Legislative Counsel, legal experts legislators rely on, were unable to answer questions about the meaning of key portions of the bill, not to mention how it would be interpreted in practice if passed. Are there unintended consequences with this and other bills? Citizens and organizations like Oregon Right to Life will only know if the bill passes and people start to see them in practice.
When HB 2002 was sent from committee to the House floor for a vote, pro-life representatives spent about nine hours giving the majority every opportunity to move the bill back to committees or postpone it for further policy discussion and clarification. Every time, these efforts were voted down, and the bill eventually passed.
The pro-life senators were ready, having already challenged a series of bills that violated ORS 171.134. They then challenged Senate leadership to follow their own rule, which clearly states that any measure introduced in the Senate must comply with the statute. Senate President Rob Wagner’s actions demonstrated his intention to force through radical policies by refusing to follow rules and shutting down the legitimate protest of minority members. This behavior left pro-life senators with one option to stop these dangerous bills: a walkout.
The strategy, while successful in stopping bills in the past, has an added consequence for the senators. A ballot measure passed in 2022 disqualifies Oregon lawmakers from the opportunity to run for reelection after 10 unexcused absences.
Many pro-life advocates across Oregon have written, called and shown up at the Capitol to oppose these dangerous bills. Together with these brave Senators, we have a chance to stop what seemed unstoppable just a few months ago.
"Senate President Rob Wagner’s actions demonstrated his intention to force through radical policies by refusing to follow rules and shutting down the legitimate protest of minority members."
Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) is the Republican leader in the Oregon Senate. Knopp is joined by 10 other Republicans and 2 Independents in the walkout. Knopp states, “We are committed to getting the people’s work done, not facilitating an extreme, unlawful, unconstitutional agenda.”