June 22, 2024

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From Kalapuya lands in the Willamette watershed

Oregon redistricting sails through, but not without a shot across the bow

5 min read
House Republicans voted to censure Speaker Tina Kotek for breaking an agreement on redistricting.

House Republicans voted to censure Speaker Tina Kotek for breaking an agreement on redistricting.

A bitterly divided Oregon House took up new election districts. As they moved toward the final vote of the day, Speaker Tina Kotek.

[00:00:08] Rep. Tina Kotek: Thank you, colleagues, for the robust debates today. Those of the opinion that the vote should pass will vote Aye, those opposed No. The clerk will open the voting system… Senate Bill 882, having received the constitutional majority, is declared passed. Rep. Drazan, for what purpose are you in the queue?

[00:00:25] Rep. Christine Drazan: Rep. Kotek, for disorderly conduct under Article Four, Section 15 of the Oregon Constitution.

[00:00:32] Rep. Tina Kotek: House will stand at ease for a moment.

[00:00:36] John Q: That section refers to the punishment, and expulsion, of members of the House. The session resumed under Rep. Paul Holvey.

[00:00:45] Rep. Paul Holvey: The House will come to order. Rep. Drazan moved to censure the Speaker of the House for disorderly conduct in accordance with Article Four, Section 15 of the Oregon Constitution. Representative Drazan, to your motion.

[00:00:57] Rep. Christine Drazan: Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Article Four, Section 15 of the Oregon Constitution directs the House of Representatives to determine its own rules of proceedings and to discipline its own members. Specifically, Article Four, Section 15 states: “Punishment and expulsion of members. Either house may punish its members for disorderly behavior.”

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Legislative Counsel was recently asked to define disorderly conduct for purposes of member discipline. “Question. How is the legislature to determine what is considered disorderly behavior and what discipline should be levied on an individual determined to have engaged in disorderly behavior. Answer. Article Four, Section 15 of the Oregon Constitution was placed in the Constitution to ensure that the House and Senate have the power to uphold and safeguard their integrity and reputation to carry out this purpose. The term disorderly behavior, as used in Article Four, Section 15 is not a defined technical term, but rather a legislative determination that the House or Senate makes as an entire body when weighing whether conduct imperils the integrity and reputation of the House or the Senate to function as a deliberative, representational, and fair lawmaking body.”

[00:02:19] John Q: The minority leader said the Speaker did not honor her word.

[00:02:23] Rep. Christine Drazan: The inability of the Speaker of the House to keep her word or conduct affairs and the execution of her duties at the highest ethical standards affects our ability as a body to function, which we have seen here today. If we can not trust Tina Kotek’s word, if we cannot trust that what she says is true in her capacity as Speaker, if she is allowed to reap the benefits of an agreement without the obligations it imposes, this House cannot function effectively.

She has impacted the ability of this body to operate as a fair lawmaking body. What she has done in her role as Speaker of the House cannot stand without this body’s rebuke. I urge you, colleagues, to stand up for this institution. Stand up for honesty and integrity. Affirm the value of our commitment to negotiate in good faith. Stand up against behavior that demeans the minority and uses political power to steal the dignity inherent in good faith agreements. Respect the values and views of those with lived experiences which are not your own, in furtherance of our representative government. Do not abandon our democracy to partisanship and the conceit of positional power. There is still such a thing as right and wrong. We have recognized it before, we must recognize it now. I urge an Aye vote.

[00:03:51] John Q: Representative Drazan made her closing statement.

[00:03:54] Rep. Christine Drazan: Colleagues, I know that this was an unexpected motion and I know that this is a risky vote and a risky decision, this public censure of a sitting Speaker of the House who is a declared candidate for Governor. I recognize that this puts people in an awkward position. The possibility that voting for this motion is problematic cannot be understated. I recognize that there’s probably nobody who believes that I personally won’t face something for my decision to bring this forward. But I was a party to that agreement. Me. On behalf of my caucus, I entered into an agreement in good faith. I held up my end of the bargain. My caucus held up their end of the bargain and there was always a risk that Tina Kotek would not hold up hers. All that was keeping the deal in place was her word. That is in fact, what we regularly rely on in this process, personal integrity, honesty.

There was nothing I could do to limit the exercise of the power given to her as Speaker to change committee membership. But she made the offer. She made the deal. My caucus held up our end of the deal. The Speaker unilaterally breached her commitment, cheating Oregonians out of fair maps. And in doing so, harmed the integrity of the House. She negatively impacted the functioning of this chamber.

[00:05:20] John Q: The Minority Leader said the Speaker silenced the voices of her party.

[00:05:25] Rep. Christine Drazan: No one forced Tina Kotek to make the offer she did. We all know the details of the agreement, equal representation on the redistricting committee in exchange for the end of constitutional reading of bills. But this body can and must affirm that after making the deal, she has a duty to the body itself to uphold it. When she chooses to break an agreement made in good faith, she is harming the institution, creating greater division and impacting our ability to work together in service to Oregonians. She must be censured for this conduct. Considering the arguments put forward today, it is incumbent upon this body to find that Representative Tina Kotek did indeed commit disorderly behavior, and the Journal shall show that the representative is censured for such violation.

[00:06:08] Rep. Paul Holvey: Those of the opinion that the motion to censor the Speaker should be adopted will vote Aye. Those opposed, No. The clerk will open the voting system… The motion to censure the Speaker, having not received the required majority, is declared failed.

[00:06:27] John Q: With that, the legislature quickly adjourned. The redistricting drama now likely moves to the courts.

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