Though Republicans in the Oregon State Senate hold a super-minority status in the deep blue state, they recently managed to strong-arm the Oregon Democrats into giving up on a gun control bill that the majority party appeared to have the votes to pass.
Willamette Week reported Monday that four days after Senate Republicans staged a walkout in response to two bills they vehemently opposed — "Senate Bill 978, which strengthens gun laws and House Bill 3063, which ends non-medical exemptions for families who choose not to vaccinate their children" — Democrats caved to their demands because they were unable to achieve a quorum without GOP legislators and thus couldn't pass a $1 billion tax bill endorsed by the governor and Senate leaders.
Senate Bill 978 would have increased the legal age to purchase a firearm to 21, implemented a strict "safe storage" law, and also banned 3D-printed firearms, Bearing Arms reports. The decision by Senate Democrats to drop the bill comes after Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick declared last week that the bill would go down "over my dead body."
"Though Republicans are in the minority this session, their walkout denied Democrats the quorum needed for a vote on the $1-billion-a-year business tax package pushed by legislative leaders and Gov. Kate Brown," Oregon Public Broadcasting reports. "Senators approved the tax plan to raise money for Oregon’s public schools by a 18-11 vote just hours after the GOP deal became public."
Among other Democrat priorities, the deal with Republicans allows the majority party to work on their big cap and trade program intended to fight climate change, OPB explains. While Democrats are clearly steering the ship on the agenda, the Republicans' walkout is a "sizable win" for the minority party, the outlet notes.
House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson expressed frustration about the Republicans' ultimately successful stunt. "It is disappointing that the Senate Republicans walked off the job, went into hiding and held ransom legislation addressing public safety and public health," she said in a statement Monday.
In press release Tuesday, the NRA Institute for Legislative Action cheered the Senate Republicans for playing hardball, but warned that the Oregon Democrats are playing the long game. "Last week, a pro-Second Amendment group of Senators took a stand against Senate Bill 978 by refusing to participate in floor sessions until the omnibus gun control bill was withdrawn from consideration. Yesterday, Oregon Senate Leadership reached an agreement that anti-gun legislation, which includes SB 978, will not be moving forward this year and is defeated for the session," the NRA-ILA announced. "While Senate Bill 978 will not be moving forward this session, anti-gun legislators have already announced they intend to reintroduce a similar version next year or potentially file a ballot initiative in 2020."
The other shelved bill, House Bill 3063, would "remove [the] ability of parent[s] to decline required immunizations against restrictable diseases on behalf of child for reason other than child's indicated medical diagnosis," thus eliminating the potential for parents to decline immunization for philisophical or religious reasons.
It wasn't only Democrats who lamented the demise of the vaccination bill, OPB notes; Republican Rep. Cheri Helt, a co-sponsor of the bill, said it is "disappointing that once again the loudest, most extreme voices in our politics prevailed and the sensible-center and thoughtful policy-making lost." The bill was submitted after a dangerous outbreak of the measles in Washington.