2019 Oregon legislative session ends, probe into Republican senator’s comments to begin

Posted at 9:10 AM, Jul 01, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-01 11:10:39-04

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    SALEM, OR (KPTV) — A roller coaster of a ride in Oregon politics ended Sunday as lawmakers passed final bills and budget items just hours before a looming deadline to end the legislative session.

The session was marked with drama and turbulence after Republican senators staged a walkout to boycott voting on a climate change bill, and Gov. Kate Brown ordered state police to round up the lawmakers who fled.

And although the controversial cap-and-trade bill failed, the supermajority Democrats still declared victory Sunday night.

“We’ve achieved things that have been the holy grail for years – primarily school funding,” said Senate Majority Leader Jinny Burdick.

In addition to education funding, Democrats touted more money for child welfare and mental health.

House Bill 2005 passed and will create a family and medical leave insurance program.

Lawmakers also approved a bill to allow duplexes on land reserved for single-family homes.

The Senate also passed a bill that would increase taxes on tobacco products and e-cigarettes to add more funding to the Oregon Health Plan. Voters will decide on the tax in the November 2020 election.

Republican lawmakers didn’t return FOX 12’s request for interviews but sent out a statement saying the 2019 session was defined by “overreach.”

“Oregon is on the wrong track,” said House Republican Leader Carl Wilson. “Governor Brown and the supermajority have made it clear they have every intention of rewarding their campaign donors and tightening their grip on power. They have no intention of looking out for the working people of this state who want nothing more than to feed their families, keep a roof over their heads, and ensure a better future for their children.”

“The failure of the Cap and Trade was a turning point,” Wilson added.

Meanwhile, drama in the Capitol is far from over.

FOX 12 confirmed the Conduct Committee will meet July 8 for a hearing regarding threatening comments made by Republican Senator Brian Boquist. The comments were aimed at Oregon State Police and Senate President Peter Courtney.

FOX 12 obtained a memo showing that outside counsel found Boquist’s comments were “credible threats of violence…The customary and best practice is not to allow the person who has threatened violence to return to the workplace until the employer can ensure that employees are safe and threats will not be carried out.”

Boquist was back on the floor Sunday for the first time since the walkout, prompting Sen. Sara Gelser to get permission to be excused from the chamber, citing safety concerns regarding the comments made by Boquist.

Gelser said she tried several avenues to keep him off the floor, to no avail.

“I’m told today that we do not have the tools to keep people safe if someone makes credible threats of violence and that’s just unacceptable, because if you can stand in the hallway or the floor and threaten to kill someone and there’s no consequence for that, we can’t keep anybody safe and that’s wrong,” Gelser said.

In the afternoon, Boquist was notably absent from the floor and Gelser was back.

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