Oregon state senators who walk out on the job would facing fines of up to $151 under a proposal from Senate Democrats eager to quell future walkout protests.
Introduced on Thursday, the $151 per-day fine currently on the table equals the per diem allowance that state lawmakers currently collect to cover the costs of working in Salem during the session, including meals and housing.
The fine was proposed in response to Senate Republicans’ most recent walkout protest earlier this month. GOP state senators said it was motivated by the desire to see more classrooms reopened and highlight what they described as the state’s failed vaccine rollout for seniors.
“Walking out on Oregonians is unacceptable and it’s an affront to democracy,” said Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego. “Even worse, when Senate Republicans walk out, they continue to accept a paycheck and compensation for their daily expenses. Oregonians aren’t paid when they don’t show up for work.”
Senate Minority Leader Fred Girod, R-Lyons, said in reply that no state lawmaker should be receiving per diem allowances while the state legislature continues meeting in-person once a week on average. State lawmakers, Girod said, work too little in Salem already.
“By scheduling minimal floor sessions, they have held up the people’s work for weeks now,” Girod said. “We have important work to do this session, but it is being held up by the Democrats.”
The Oregon state Capitol building has remained closed to the public since the onset of the pandemic and floor activity has been greatly limited as a result. Committee assignments and most other non-floor work has moved online since last year.
Still, state lawmakers are looking to give themselves a pay bump this session in a stated effort to attract more diverse candidates to the state legislature.
Oregon GOP lawmakers have walked out three years in a row. The first two saw Oregon House and Senate Republicans walk out over a corporate activity tax to fund schools. This current session is the first in recent years that saw House Republicans stay put.
Currently, unexcused absences in the Oregon House carry fines of up to $500 per session day.
The proposed fine in the Oregon Senate this session requires a floor vote to be put into effect.
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