We all watched in early May as Oregon Senate Republicans walked out of the state capital building. They were defiant against a $1B corporate tax increase for Oregon schools. They’ve since been convinced to come back, but — they could walk out again.
I’ve learned a lot about how the game can be played by a super minority party in state government. I’ve also learned just how far it can go.
Just like when union workers demand better pay and better working conditions, walking off the job can be the most effective way for politicians in a super minority to get what they want. But it can also be dangerous.
I caught up with officials who work for the Oregon Senate and top officials at Senate President Peter Courtney’s office. They told me how it could go — worst case.
Of course, this would all depend on how much time is left in the legislative session. So, I would estimate that this “worst case” hypothetical scenario could only occur near the end of session — and — most likely in a session where the 2-year budget is being written.
If the minority party were to walk out in this scenario, the majority party’s leadership in the Senate, could call for Oregon State Patrol troopers to go out hunting for the missing minority politicians. The Governor is the one who gives the order, of course.
I’m told this would be an absolute last resort.
I’m told both the majority party leadership and the Governor would seek out negotiations first, but — if they had to — the Governor could give the order for OSP troopers to go hunting. Troopers would be tasked with dragging “just enough” minority party members back to Salem, enough to make a quorum so a vote can be held.
Can you imagine how crazy that could get?
Imagine minority party members refusing to go quietly. Imagine them fleeing across the state line into Washington, perhaps — Vancouver. Imagine the spot Vancouver Police would be in. Do they help OSP — or not??
Could things get violent?? Perhaps so.
I suppose that’s why this option is considered a last resort. I would even go as far as to say it might be worth avoiding super majorities in our elected institutions altogether.
Food for thought 🙂