Democracy Progresses, Despite Interruptions to Legislative Session

Legislature expands access to voting and passes other pro-democracy bills, but holds off on broader reforms

SALEM – As Oregon’s tumultuous legislative session heads to a close, notable pro-democracy bills are on their way to becoming law while the fate of other sweeping reforms remains uncertain. Despite interruptions to this year’s legislative session, several consequential bills are slated for a final vote in the coming hours, with a slew of smaller good government bills already passed. 

“It is a testament to the strength of Oregon’s democracy that the legislative session could resume and finish its work, despite unprecedented interruptions,” said Kate Titus, Executive Director of Common Cause Oregon. “It remains to be seen what lasting legacy the walkout will have. Oregonians voted to hold lawmakers accountable for walkouts, but that law has yet to fully play out. We must keep pushing our democracy forward in the final days of the session to ensure important, pro-voting bills become law.”

One of the most impactful democracy bills likely to pass on the Senate floor is HB 2107, which extends Oregon’s successful automatic voter registration to the Oregon Health Authority to provide another way for more Oregonians to conveniently and securely register to vote. The intent of this bill is to proactively assist eligible Oregonians to register to vote as they interact with government agencies.

Also likely to pass in the coming hours is a pair of companion bills, HB 3625 and HJM 3, which could prove significant in protecting against radical attempts to rewrite the U.S. Constitution. These simple housekeeping bills will eliminate decades-old resolutions still on Oregon books before they can be misused to advance radical agendas. The old resolutions called on Congress to enact a Constitutional Convention as a means to amend the Constitution – while the amendments were eventually resolved through regular channels, the resolutions remained on record. These bills counter the extremist national movements that have been testing legal theories in court to take advantage of old state resolutions to enact a new Constitutional Convention.

The legislature also passed dozens of other pro-democracy governance bills, including bills addressing:

  • ethics and conflicts of interest (HB 5021, SB 207, HB 2034, SB 661, SB 168), 
  • public meetings law (HB 2805, HB 2806, SB 11, HB 2490), 
  • public records (SB510, HB 5032, HB 3111), 
  • disclosures (HB 2038, HB 2159, HB 3073), 
  • domestic terrorism and paramilitary activity (HB 2272, HB 2572A), 
  • the importance of media in democracy (HB 3167),
  • impeachment power (HJR 16),
  • and best practices for setting public officials’ salaries (SJR 34).

Other consequential democracy bills did not make it through the Legislature, including bills to lower the voting age and to guarantee voting to all Oregon voters, even if incarcerated.

“It is disappointing that we couldn’t pass meaningful, campaign finance reform – something Oregon greatly needs,” added Titus. “It’s better that legislators hold off until they can get it right, rather than passing ineffective legislation now. Common Cause Oregon is committed to fixing Oregon’s money-in-politics problem by establishing a combination of limits, increased transparency measures, and the public funding of elections.”

The last key voting bill currently scheduled for a final vote on Sunday morning is HB 2004, to establish rank choice voting (RCV) as the voting method for Oregon’s federal and statewide elections and also allow for its adoption for local elections. Should this bill become law, it could lead to more reflective outcomes and improved representation in Oregon elections. In cities that adopted this method of voting, women and candidates of color won 24% more races compared to non-RCV races.