Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Differences in Perspective

It's all about perspective. The sinking of the Titanic was a miracle to the lobsters in the ship's kitchen. -- Wynne McLoughlin
[Author's note: This is a pretty long post, just over 2,000 words including this note. The TL;DR is, most of the news is incomplete and biased to favor the perspective of whoever's reporting, so it's in your interests to try and get both sides. Rare is the article that fairly covers the whole of what's being covered.]

I receive e-mail updates from a lot of different groups, both professional and political (and sometimes both, as you'll soon see), from both sides of the aisle. It's interesting to read how the same events are portrayed by the different sides.

For background: The 2023 Oregon Legislative Session ends on June 30. The Democrats have a majority in both chambers — House and Senate — and have been pushing hard to pass a ton of "Progressive" (read: socialist, state-empowering, collectivist, etc.) bills on all kinds of topics, from "reproductive health" (House Bill [HB] 2002 [PDF warning], which removes age-of-consent and parental notification requirements for abortions, gender transition surgeries, and hormone replacement drugs), to changing mental health and drug treatment reporting, to "gun control".

On that last, plenty of people (myself included, here and here) have reported on Measure 114 — currently on hold in State Court — and its legislative counterpart, Senate Bill (SB) 348 [PDF warning], which is even worse, making it harder to purchase firearms even with a "permit-to-purchase", and increasing the fees involved.

There's also HB 2572 [PDF warning], which bans Constitutionally-protected militia groups as "private paramilitary organizations" — but through some creative language exempts BLM/Antifa and their "mostly peaceful" activities.

And HB 2005 [PDF warning], which adds a whole bunch of "gun free zones" to limit where CHL holders can carry, bars 18-20 year-olds from purchasing ANY firearms, and redefines "receiver" in such a way that makes all AR-pattern guns illegal. (If passed and signed into law, Oregon's definition of "receiver" would not match the federal definition, so gun manufacturers would need to re-tool to make Oregon-compliant AR-pattern receivers, and it's unknown how or if the BATFE would require the records to change. I may cover this in more detail in another post.)

And more.

On top of that, Oregon has a law passed in 1979 that established a readability requirement for any legislative bill's summary. Summaries must be understandable for an 8th-grade-level reader. The law is intended for transparency, so that normal citizens can understand what the legislature is voting on.

Because of these and other Constitutionally-questionable (or Constitutionally-invalid) bills, and because the bill summaries are inaccurate or unreadable for someone without a law degree, and because the Democrat majority seems intent on steamrolling their agenda into place, 13 Senators — 12 Republicans and one Independent — have taken the only Constitutional step they can take to stop the madness, and walked out. This denies quorum, the minimum number of Senators required to conduct business on the Senate floor (2/3 of members are required to be present; in the Senate that's 20 of the 30 members), and halts the agenda.

(A bit more background: Denying quorum is the minority party's last resort to affect the agenda, and carries significant risk — and now cost — to the legislators who walk out. Last year voters passed Measure 113, which states that legislators with 10 or more "unexcused absences" become ineligible to run for re-election. [If you assumed that Constitutional, First-Amendment-protected-protest walk-outs are not considered excused absences, you'd be right.] That 10-day mark has passed for all but a couple Senate Republicans, so most-if-not-all of them won't be back after the next election. To be clear: Senate Republicans basically committed career suicide to uphold their and their constituents' ideals.)

But now to the topic of today's post: Differences in Perspective.

What's interesting is how the walk-out is being reported, depending on who's doing the reporting.

Oregon Firearms Federation (OFF), in their e-mail and online Alerts, has talked about it quite a bit:

May 5, "Showdown":
Today for the third day, the Oregon Senate Republicans have denied quorum, shutting down business on the Senate floor. [...] This completely legal and constitutional action, which we have been encouraging, was taken in response to the clearly and demonstrably unlawful actions of the Democrat Senator President, actions also taken by the Democrat House Speaker.
May 18, "Wagner Craps Out":
The Democrats love to drone on about the rights of minorities and pat themselves on the back for their demands for "equity and inclusion." But in the end, they are transparent frauds. [...] The far left "OPB" was right. The Democrats, in their zeal for retribution, screwed up. They now have zero leverage. The Senate Republicans have demonstrated amazing courage and selflessness....
And more at their site. (Also, drop a line to the Senate Republicans with a big "Thank You" for standing up for their principles. The list is at that link.)

Notice the tone describing the Republican Senators and their actions: respectful and appreciative, with words like, "legal", "constitutional", "courage", "selflessness". Contrast with the tone describing the Democrat leaders: "clearly and demonstrably unlawful", "zeal for retribution".

For an opposing view, here is how public union SEIU 503 talks about the walk-out in a May 26 e-mail newsletter:
Walkout Continues at the Oregon Legislature: For more than three weeks, Republican Senators (and a Republican turned Independent) have refused to go to work and blocked any bills from advancing in the Senate - including the state budget with funding for our agencies and bargaining. These lawmakers are still collecting paychecks funded by Oregon taxpayers. We know that when working people don’t show up to work, they certainly don’t get paid, and they might even lose their job. SEIU members worked through a pandemic, wildfires, historic ice storms, and more – and we need these Senators to come back to pass legislation that is critical to SEIU members and all Oregonians. Do your part by telling them to get back to work today! [emphasis in original, internal links omitted]
Wow, that's quite a difference, isn't it? Condescending, holier-than-thou tone, with not even an attempt at informing their members why the Republicans chose to walk. They make the GOP Senators sound like terrorists, hijacking the agenda and holding the state budget hostage, to be released only when their political demands are met!

(Also, point of fact, SEIU officers' paychecks are also primarily funded by taxpayers; they mostly come from member dues, which come out of taxpayer-funded public employee paychecks. Second point of fact, legislators also worked through the same pandemic, wildfires, ice storms, etc. Pot, meet kettle.)

Granted, OFF and SEIU are fairly partisan organizations, so let's now read the words of one of the Senators themselves, Sen. Daniel Bonham (R-District 26), from his own legislative update newsletters:

May 9:
Since last week, Senate Republicans and Independents have protested the unconstitutional actions of the majority party by exercising our constitutional right to deny quorum or the minimum number of Senators required to conduct business on the Senate Floor. [...] The spark that lit the match to walkout is the Democrats’ willful violation of the law. [...] When a bill is introduced, its summary must be clearly understandable at an 8th-grade level, as laid out in the Constitution and subsection 5 of Senate Rule 13.02 and ORS 171.134. [...] This is to ensure transparency, so laws are not merely crafted by attorneys and those with enough money to afford them. Every Oregonian should have reasonable access to the process. [...] Democrats must FOLLOW THE LAW. [emphasis in original]
May 18:
On Monday, I had crossed the threshold of 10 unexcused absences, which means I may not be able to run for Senate again, according to the unconstitutional Measure 113 that passed last November. [...] Today, the majority of GOP Senators have hit their 10-days, meaning there is no turning back now. We are in it for the long haul. [...] As a reminder, Senate Republicans and Independents are currently protesting the unconstitutional actions of the majority party by exercising our constitutional right to deny quorum or the minimum number of Senators required to conduct business on the Senate Floor.
(There's also an example of Democrat corruption at this link, but it's not important to this article other than a backdrop to the walk-out.)

May 25 (the latest as of this writing):
Measure 113 was last year's ambiguously-worded statewide initiative concerning quorum and "unexcused" absences. It is unconstitutional. Words matter, and it's not entirely clear when Measure 113 would kick in. Also, it violates our First Amendment rights and of those who would elect us. [...] The political ploy was evident when the Senate President called for session on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, until my colleagues and I hit 10 days of unexcused absences. Now he is adjourning the Thursday Floor sessions until Monday. This is political theater. [...] I will say loud and clear that Republicans have an interest in passing bipartisan bills and bipartisan budgets.... [...] Republicans and Democrats have come together on the final day of Session in recent years to get this critical work done.
Sen. Bonham's tone is mostly matter-of-fact. He's giving his informed opinion on the happenings within the State Capitol, but not calling names or being disrespectful toward his Democrat colleagues (critical of their actions, sure, but not disrespectful of the people). And he offers a suggestion: Focus on bipartisan bills and budgets, and let the Republicans have a voice in the process.

Finally, for a more neutral report, the Oregon Capital Chronicle and their article from May 7, "Oregon Senate Republican walkout hits day 5, Knopp acknowledges ‘partisan’ bills as factor":
Sunday morning in an all-but-deserted downtown Salem heralded the start of a new week and a routine that’s become all too familiar in the state Senate as Republicans entered their fifth day of a walkout.


Republicans have insisted they’re protesting a failure to comply with a state law that requires bill summaries to be written at about an eighth-grade reading level. Democrats say they’re trying to prevent votes on bills protecting abortion rights and transgender health care and limiting guns.

Senate Minority Leader Tim Knopp, R-Bend, allowed during a phone call on Sunday that Republicans are also protesting about 20 different bills they consider “hyperpartisan,” including high-profile measures on abortion, guns and transgender health care. If Senate President Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, chooses to set aside those bills – as Democrats did in response to a Republican walkout over carbon cap legislation in 2019 – and orders staff to write new summaries in simpler language for other measures, Republicans will return, Knopp said.
And here, finally, we have a solution clearly stated. If Senate President Rob Wagner (D-District 19) would remove those bills from the agenda until more readable summaries are written — a reasonable request, given state law — the Republican Senators will come back to pass critical bills, like the state and agency budgets, infrastructure and housing measures, mental health care, and many others. The only thing I'd add to the reporting is that walking out is not a Republican tactic, but a Constitutional one; the Democrats have used it in the past to force negotiations and concessions as well.

The bottom line is, as much hate as the Republicans are getting from the Left and the mainstream media (but I repeat myself), Senate President Rob Wagner is just as much in control. (I use the analogy: The Oregon Senate is like a car — the majority party controls the steering, the minority party controls the brakes. All the Senate President has to do is turn the wheel away from the cliff, and the Republicans will let up on the pedal.) He could shelve the disputed bills and move on to bipartisan — and arguably more important to Oregonians — budgets and legislation that benefits everyone. But he and his media and union allies seem set on laying blame on their opponents and pushing forward with the divisive, "hyperpartisan" agenda.

In other words, business as usual for the past several years.

Stay safe out there.