I have spent the last year as a frontline grocery worker during this pandemic, and I always showed up to work and met my responsibilities to my coworkers, my friends and my family.
I believe our state lawmakers should do the same, and I support legislation that would impose consequences on legislators who walk out when the Legislature is in session.
It is particularly frustrating to see walkouts this year, as so many of my friends, family and coworkers have desperately needed elements of COVID-19 relief. It feels beyond childish to walk away, rather than work with others to improve bills, or vote against them.
These walkouts are happening more and more often, even after Republican leaders signed a pledge that they wouldn't use this tactic. They walked out in 2019, and twice in 2020, running away to Idaho, Reno and other unknown locations, taking a taxpayer-funded vacation instead of staying on the job and working for Oregonians.
Last year, because of walkouts, the Legislature had to shut down without passing wildfire prevention funding, or over $110 million for urgently needed affordable housing.
And if that isn't bad enough, they have already staged at least one walkout this year — during the pandemic — when Oregonians need them to stop messing around and start to take their job seriously.
I have the privilege of volunteering extensively in my community, and taking part in many debates with my friends, neighbors and community members. These discussions about local political issues are sometimes controversial or contentious, but even if we don't agree or we become passionate, we don't simply walk away from important conversations.
Our community, and our democracy, work when we come together to talk and resolve differences, and ultimately find a way forward; it is the right thing to do.
Also, taxpayers foot the bill for these ongoing walkouts. Legislative shutdowns in 2020 used up almost $500,000 of public funds, a huge waste of taxpayer money.
It is time to put an end to rewarding these walkout tactics. I support proposals that say if lawmakers have 10 unexcused absences, they cannot run for re-election.
This is not a partisan position. 84% of Oregon voters, including 76% of Republicans, agree. Oregonians also believe that lawmakers shouldn't get paid when they walk off the job, and should face personal responsibility for their actions with fines that can't be paid for with political contributions. No more absentee lawmakers.
Last year, teachers, first responders, healthcare workers and frontline workers like me kept going to work. We did not abandon our responsibilities when things got hard. I think we all agree that's the right thing to do.
Our elected officials should also meet that standard, and be an example for us to look up to. Their oath of office swears them to upholding the constitution and doing their duty.
There is a growing coalition of individuals and organizations coming together to hold lawmakers accountable for their actions, and I encourage everyone to learn more at NoMoreCostlyWalkouts.com.
If legislators disagree on a bill, they should do the work to change it or vote against it. They should represent the voices of their constituents instead of shutting down the government. It's time to end these endless walkouts.
Dave Coburn is a Beaverton resident.
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