Oregon’s longest state legislative walkout enters sixth week

Welcome to the Wednesday, June 14, Brew. 

Here’s what’s in store for you as you start your day:

  1. Oregon’s longest state legislative walkout enters sixth week
  2. SCOTUS decision in Alabama redistricting case was 486 days in the making, the longest span in more than two decades
  3. Senate has confirmed 130 Biden judicial nominees, the most at this point since Bill Clinton

Oregon’s longest state legislative walkout enters sixth week

Six weeks ago today, Senate Republicans in Oregon began what has since become the state’s longest legislative walkout.

For reference: while a walkout can involve physically walking out of the chamber, it can also describe when a group of legislators is absent from floor votes in order to prevent the chamber from taking any action, more on that below.

Republican leaders said the walkout was a protest over the wording of bill summaries. Democratic leaders said it was to prevent a vote on bills regarding parental consent for abortion, firearms, and social, psychological, and medical treatments for transgender adults and minors.

At 42 days, the current walkout has lasted around four and a half weeks longer than the state’s previous record of nine days set in 2021.

The chamber’s regular session ends on June 25.

This is the first walkout since Oregon voters approved Measure 113 in 2022, which disqualifies legislators from re-election following the end of their current term if they are absent from 10 floor sessions without permission or excuse.

So far, 10 senators have met that threshold, though Minority Leader Tim Knopp (R) has said to expect legal challenges to Measure 113.

State legislative walkouts are not unique to Oregon. Still, they are more common there than in other states based on how the state defines a quorum, the minimum number of members who must be present in order to conduct official business.

Almost every state defines a quorum as being at least half of all members, meaning the majority party often has a quorum by itself.

But in Oregon, a quorum is at least two-thirds of all members, equaling 20 in the Senate. Democrats hold a 17-12-1 majority in the chamber, meaning at least three non-Democrats must be present to conduct business.

Three other states also have a two-thirds quorum: Indiana, Tennessee, and Texas.

In Indiana and Tennessee, Republicans control more than two-thirds of the seats in both chambers, reducing the likelihood of a walkout.

Like Republicans in Oregon, Democrats in Texas also control more than one-third of the seats in both chambers, giving them the power to prevent a quorum.

And they have: in 2021, Texas Democrats conducted two walkouts, both over elections-related legislation. The first, in May, took place during the final hours of the year’s legislative session, preventing the bill’s passage. In response, Gov. Greg Abbott (R) called a special session, resulting in another walkout that lasted 38 days from July into August, ultimately ending with the legislation signed into law.

Since 2000, four states have had at least one noteworthy state legislative walkout, shown below:

Use the link below to learn more about the current walkout in Oregon and other noteworthy legislative walkouts Ballotpedia has identified around the country.

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SCOTUS decision in Alabama redistricting case was 486 days in the making, the longest span in more than two decades

Merrill v. Milligan, a redistricting case out of Alabama, spent more time before the U.S. Supreme Court than any other redistricting-related lawsuit in the past two decades.

In case you missed it last week, justices ruled 5-4 that plaintiffs had a reasonable likelihood of success concerning their claim that Alabama’s redistricting map violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act as a racial gerrymander.

The court granted the case a hearing on Feb. 7, 2022, heard oral arguments on Oct. 4, 2022, and made its decision on June 8, 2023: 486 days from start to finish.

That’s around 72% longer than the average 283 days it took the court to grant, hear, and decide seven redistricting-related lawsuits in the 2000s and 2010s.

With Merrill, there were 239 days between when the court granted it a hearing and held oral arguments. That’s the longest such period among any of the preceding cases.

After oral arguments, there were 247 days before the court issued its final decision. That’s the second-longest such period, behind Gill v. Whitford, a partisan gerrymandering case out of Wisconsin that was argued on Oct. 3, 2017, and decided 258 days later on June 18, 2018.

There is one redistricting-related lawsuit pending before the court: Moore v. Harper out of North Carolina. As of June 14, it has been before the court for 349 days, the third-longest period after Merrill and Gill.

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Senate has confirmed 130 Biden judicial nominees, the most at this point since Bill Clinton

As of June 1, roughly 860 days into his first term, President Joe Biden (D) has nominated 164 individuals to federal judgeships on Article III courts. The Senate has confirmed 130, the second-most among any president at this point in their presidency since Ronald Reagan (R).

Article III judgeships are those on the U.S. Supreme Court, the U.S. Court of International Trade, the 13 U.S. courts of appeal, and the 94 U.S. district courts.

By June 1 of the third year in his their terms, only Bill Clinton (D) had more nominees confirmed at 145.

By the end of their first terms, Donald Trump (R) had the most Article III nominees confirmed with 234, followed by George W. Bush (R) with 204, and Clinton with 203.

There are 95 upcoming and current Article III vacancies. 

If Biden and the Senate fill each of those and no new vacancies arise, he will have made 218 appointments by the end of his first term.

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