Tuesday, May 9, 2023

By:  Brandon Kamerman


EUGENE, Ore. – Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) weighed in on the GOP walkout in the Oregon State Senate, which reached Day 7 on Tuesday.

As a former Speaker of the Oregon House, Merkley said he was disappointed in the state Republicans, blasting their decision.

“I think these walkouts are a big mistake,” he said.

They’re not over a constitutional issue. They’re over policy, and that’s what a republic does. You make the decision that the majority view will prevail, and you have a responsibility to be there to influence that view, to present an amendment. If you don’t like the bill, you want to move it back to committee, make your argument, but we’ve got housing issues, mental health issues, and education issues, lots of things stemming from COVID that we need to address and to just bail out and say, ‘I’m going to take my pay and I’m not going to do the work’ is unacceptable. They need to show back up to work.

He further weighed in on state politics, addressing the recent resignation of Secretary of State Shemia Fagan, who faced controversy for her role as a paid consultant for a marijuana company that is currently under state audit.

“I support the choice Shemia made [to resign]. I think she has been a very good contributor to public policy in Oregon, a very positive arc fighting for a lot of good things in fighting for healthcare and housing and education, and two months ago she made what I would call a tragic mistake. As she herself has said to the public, she’s apologized that she did not step back and see the massive conflict of interest this presented. So I wish her well in her next chapter.”

On Thursday the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs will hold a hearing on Sen. Merkley’s SAFE Banking Act to protect cannabis small businesses and workers. Merkley is not on the committee but will appear as a witness.