Oregon bills hang in balance as Senate GOP walkout continues

More than two weeks ago, Oregon Senate Republicans walked off the floor in protest of a couple divisive bills about abortion and gun control.
Published: May. 25, 2023 at 6:26 PM PDT
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SALEM Ore. (KPTV) - More than two weeks ago, Oregon Senate Republicans walked off the floor in protest of a couple divisive bills about abortion and gun control.

But the walkout has left many more bills in limbo, including House Bill 2813, which would protect drinking sources like watersheds.

“We need to preserve those sources particularly for communities that that is their only source. They need to have that source water protected so that they don’t have to spend a lot of money on the downstream end treating that water,” House District 27 Representative Ken Helm said.

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The Drought Relief and Water Security Package is also in limbo, which aims to protect three sectors: fish, families and farms, according to representatives Helm and Mark Owens.

“Fish sort of are a placeholder for our ecosystem. Families are all the municipal needs and clean drinking water we need and farms, you’re right take irrigation water, and they have various needs they also need to manage their lands for drought resilience,” Helm said.

This package is $110 million, $50 million of which Helm and Owens said would go toward upgrading farmers’ irrigation systems, something Owens knows is crucial as a farmer himself. He said the communities he serves in Eastern Oregon are still dealing with drought conditions.

“We need to figure out how to do more with less. So how we got to get more crop per drop. Some of the investments that we have in the drought package will allow the modernization of irrigation, allow technology increase, allow farmers to do more with less water,” House District 60 Representative Mark Owens said.

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Helm said the longer it takes to get this package approved, the less likely they are to get additional federal funding for that part of the budget as other states step in to try and get that money. He said it’s not fair Senate Republicans are waiting until June 25th .

“The federal match on that money is 4 to 1. So, we put in 25% and the feds put in the rest. So, we’re standing on the precipice of quadrupling money for irrigation modernization around the state. The longer we wait to get our state matched money in line for that, the more the competition from other states ramps up and we have the possibility of losing out,” he said.

A spokesperson for Senator Minority Leader Tim Knopp sent a statement to FOX 12:

“We want it to be very clear that bipartisan budgets are not in jeopardy. Republicans and Independents will provide a quorum on June 25th and suspend readings and rules on bipartisan budgets and bills to get them done. We understand that this is the primary responsibility of the Legislature.”

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There are other bills involving education and veterans support that are also waiting to be heard. We reached out to Governor Tina Kotek’s office about these and a spokesperson sent a statement:

“It would be negligent for the session to conclude without investments that will improve our early literacy rates, make behavioral health care more accessible, and address the housing and homelessness crisis. Oregonians – families, businesses, and entire communities – are suffering in every part of the state. We had a strong start this session by moving the $200 million for the Emergency Homelessness Response Package. We must follow through and deepen those investments, set up our youngest students for success and urgently improve our behavioral health system.”