This story originally appeared January 17 in the Oregon Capital Chronicle and is republished here under a CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 license. Read more stories at oregoncapitalchronicle.com.
Oregon House Speaker Dan Rayfield removed a freshman Republican state representative who’s under a restraining order from serving on committees.
Since Nov. 7, Brian Stout, R-Columbia City, has been subject to a five-year order of protection from a former campaign volunteer who reported that he had sexually assaulted her and threatened her life. A Columbia County judge will continue hearing arguments over whether the order should remain in place later this spring.
Stout, who runs a sign company, won his first legislative election in November, his third try for a House seat. Rayfield initially appointed him to serve on the House Committee on Business and Labor and the House Committee on Economic Development and Small Businesses before removing him Monday.
Stout didn’t return a call seeking comment.
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The Portland-based alternative newspaper Willamette Week first reported Rayfield’s move and the allegations against Stout.
His removal means he will continue to represent the Columbia County district, formerly represented by Democrat Brad Witt, but will not be able to take part in essential committee work.
On Tuesday, the first day of the session, House Republican Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson, R-Prineville, said she respected Rayfield’s decision to remove Stout from committees, but said she wants to be sure Rayfield is consistent in applying the rules. She noted that Stout’s alleged misconduct happened before he was a member of the Legislature.
“I fear that this precedent is only functional if performed and applied fairly in every instance, regardless of political affiliation,” Breese-Iverson said on the House floor. “If this is the new standard to be applied, I ask that the bar be set and explained to this legislative body.”
Rayfield said during a press conference later in the day that he agreed with Breese-Iverson’s concerns. He said his responsibility as speaker includes making sure that people working in the Capitol are safe, and that he’ll enforce the same rules regardless of party affiliation.
“When you apply and judge a situation, it shouldn’t matter about what party you’re from, Democrat or Republican,” Rayfield said. “It needs to be applied evenly for us to maintain credibility in the space and also to maintain a safe workplace.”