Oregon lawmakers will meet on housing and drugs after record GOP walkout(Part-2)

In 2020, voters passed Measure 110, which decriminalized “personal use” of illegal narcotics and diverted cannabis tax income to drug addiction treatment. A citation and $100 fine are the sole penalties for heroin possession under a gram. Republicans criticize Democrats' proposal as insufficient. They want “personal use” possession to be a higher-level misdemeanor and treatment required.

House leaders from both parties acknowledged substantive divides and said they were focusing on establishing connections and adopting a “no surprises approach” to prevent the communication breaches that led to last year's GOP Senate exit.

“We have an agenda in front of us that we need to focus on,” said Republican House Minority Leader Jeff Helfrich. "If the system breaks and we don't produce for Oregonians, that's a problem."

Minority leader Tim Knopp, who led last year's walkout, said he has had “positive” conversations with Senate Democratic president Rob Wagner. Wagner said he visited Republican senators in their home districts between sessions and had “good and open conversations” with Knopp.

After last year's long walkout, 10 GOP senators were barred from running again, including Knopp. A voter-approved constitutional amendment prohibits lawmakers with more than 10 unexcused absences from running for reelection to prevent boycotts. The Oregon Supreme Court denied a complaint by GOP senators, including Knopp, challenging their disqualification.

Lawmakers with at least 10 unexcused absences could not run for office the next term, according to a secretary of state administrative regulation approved by the top court last year.

This year, Democrats submitted a bipartisan resolution demanding a majority of lawmakers for a quorum instead of two-thirds to prevent walkouts. Republicans have deliberately avoided the two-thirds quorum essential for legislative activity in the House and Senate. The constitutional amendment would be voted on if enacted.

Kotek said she has spoken to Republican leaders and isn't worried about policy disagreements like last year. “Let’s focus on housing, behavioral health, summer learning,” Kotek added. This isn't a sophisticated session. Keep it simple.