‘Lonely lawmaker’ continued to show up

SALEM — Rep. Brad Witt (D-Clatskanie) was the topic of a KATU News feature last month that showed him reporting to his desk on the floor of the House of Representatives every day at 11 a.m. even when the House was empty.

“My job is to represent my district,” said Witt, who is secretary-treasurer of the Oregon AFL-CIO. “And I plan to show up and do that even if no one else will."

Witt’s been left on his own because Speaker of the House Karen Minnis and Republican leadership have twice called for a vote to shut down the House of Representatives for three-day “rolling recesses.” On July 18, after being back at work one day, the Republican-led House approved the recess in a party-line vote of 32-27.

During the recess, lawmakers continue to get paid, but don’t have to show up for work. Minnis says it is an attempt to force Democrats to negotiate on the sticking points in the state budget. Witt, however, says lawmakers who voted for the paid vacation should be ashamed of themselves.

“In my opinion, the 32 state representatives who voted for another paid vacation ought to be embarrassed by their vote,” he said. “They should be embarrassed that the citizens of Oregon sent us to Salem to do their work — to develop a comprehensive state budget and to address their public policy priorities. Yet after six months, we have completed neither task. Our performance hardly warrants time off.”

Witt pointed out that the legislative session costs Oregon taxpayers $28,500 per day even when the House is on vacation.

He also pointed out that beyond the budget negotiations, there is plenty of work to be done in the House. For example, one important bill that could save Oregonians hundreds of dollars on monthly prescription drug costs was passed by the Senate with a bipartisan vote on May 20 and has been sitting in the House waiting for action ever since.

Witt said that he will continue to report to his desk on the floor on the House as long as the Legislature is in session, whether his fellow lawmakers join him or not.

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