Oregon Legislative Cluster Update: Climate Bill Dead for Now

June 25, 2019

Update on Oregon legislative Cluster-eff from CNN – followed by interview with presidential candidate Jay Inslee.

Oregon Public Broadcasting:

UPDATE (2:20 p.m. PT) — Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, says Oregon’s sweeping plan for addressing climate change this legislative session does not have the votes to pass.

But it’s not clear whether that will be enough to bring Senate Republicans back to work. 

As a walkout by Republican Senators entered its sixth day and fifth Oregon Senate meeting Tuesday, Courtney announced that House Bill 2020 — the reason Republicans began skipping work last week — will not pass the Senate chamber. 

“What I’m about to say, I say of my own free will. No one has told me to say this,” Courtney said. “House Bill 2020 does not have the votes on the Senate floor. That will not change.”

He went on to describe a wide array of policy and budget bills that have yet to be passed this session, including funding for the largest agencies in the state. 

“This is a remarkable opportunity to finish our work,” Courtney said. “Please senators, come to this floor.”  

The announcement, made before Democrats had even met for a caucus meeting Tuesday, appears to mark an end to the state’s plan to institute a cap-and-trade bill. And it comes after rumors have swirled around the statehouse that HB 2020 was likely to die — sacrificed to get Republicans back, because it didn’t have enough support, or both.

Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, said Tuesday morning he’d only just heard of Courtney’s announcement, and that he had questions about its meaning.

“The question becomes: What are they trying to do?” said Bentz, who is believed to be staying in Idaho while the boycott plays out. “Are they trying to make some sort of arrangement? If they are suggesting they don’t have the votes, what’s the procedure they’re going to use to kill the bill? Are they going to call it up for a vote?”

Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, echoed that confusion. 

“We need clarification. What does that mean?” Knopp said. “Does it mean it’s dead until the 2020 session? Is the governor going to take it up in a special session?”

But Knopp said Courtney’s announcement was a welcome one. 

“We are out of time to fix this bill for the 2019 legislative session,” he said. “So, if there was a commitment that it won’t come up again until at least the 2020 session it’s a step in the right direction to end this political protest.” 

Knopp estimated most members could be back at the Capitol within 36 hours, but he said, the Republican caucus is still waiting to hear key details. 

“Are they still going to try to post a fine? Are they going to get retribution? Are they still going to try and kill capital construction projects? All that is important to our members … And what bills are they going to run on the rest of the calendar?” 

Meanwhile, senators who backed the bill appeared livid and declined to speak to reporters on the floor.

While Courtney’s office attempted to suggest Tuesday that there was a difference between the HB 2020 not having enough votes and the bill being dead, Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, said they were one and the same. 

“I don’t think you can get much clearer than to say a bill does not have the votes,” Burdick said. “We need 16 votes to pass the bill through the Senate and we do not have 16 votes.”

While Burdick said the idea would likely not be taken up again this year, she vowed to pursue a climate change bill in future sessions. 

“Those of us who fervently support this bill, which I am one, have not given up,” Burdick said. “You will not see the end of an effort to reduce carbon emissions and join a West Coast consortium of people who are committed to reducing carbon and to save our melting planet.”  

Burdick added that Democrats would stand firm on fining absent Republicans $500 per day. She had not heard of a deal for them to return to Salem as of 1 p.m.

“They never should have left in the first place and their reason that they gave for leaving is now gone,” she said. “So where are they?” 

The cap-and-trade policy, a plan to cap carbon emissions and make polluters pay for their greenhouse gas production, is a Democratic priority in this year’s session. But whether there was enough support in the Senate, the more moderate of the legislature’s two Democrat-dominated chambers, has been a question since before Republicans walked out to prevent a vote.

Democrats hold 18 of the Senate’s 30 seats, and so could only afford to lose two votes to muster the 16 needed to pass the bill. Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, strongly opposed the policy and Sen. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, had indicated he was a possible “no.”

A number of other senators, including Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson, D-Gresham, have also raised concerns, and some in the building believed even formerly committed senators had wavered in support as the Senate boycott went on.

Burdick, meanwhile, told reporters that there hadn’t been support in the Senate even before Republicans walked away. “As the person who counts the votes, my personal sense is that the votes were not there,” she said. 

Environmental groups that backed HB 2020 immediately put out a statement disputing Courtney’s assertion.

“That is in direct contradiction to what 16 Senators told their constituents to their faces in recent days,” said Tera Hurst, executive director of the group Renew Oregon. “Instead of having the Senate vote on the floor and stand up to the public, the Senate President is allowing members to hide behind a contradictory statement.”

Hurst went on to call the situation “the biggest failure of public leadership in Oregon in recent memory.”

As Courtney spoke, HB 2020 supporters in the Senate gallery got out of their seats and turned their back to him. 

“They have the votes. They just don’t have the courage,” Shilpa Joshi, a 31-year-old climate activist, said afterward. “They are jeopardizing our future.”

House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said in a tweet she was unwilling to give up hope on passing some sort of climate legislation this session. 

“This has been a dark week for the integrity of the Legislature,” Kotek tweeted. “Senate (Republicans) have been threatening our democratic institution and subverting the will of Oregon voters who know we need to act now. Their walkout has come at immense cost to our institution and potentially the planet.” 

Gov. Kate Brown it’s time for the Republicans to come back to the Capitol.  

“Are they against climate change legislation or are they against democracy?” Brown said in a statement, “If they are not back by Wednesday afternoon, we will know the answer.”

Courtney did not come right out and call HB 2020 dead Tuesday. But he traditionally avoids bringing bills that will not pass up for a vote.


12 Responses to “Oregon Legislative Cluster Update: Climate Bill Dead for Now”

  1. jerrydogood Says:

    Sanity wins, who would have thought it could happen, Now maybe they can fix their real problems like traffic and crime.

  2. ubrew12 Says:

    Voting for a representative is a RIGHT. Whether or not that representative actually votes to represent you is not. Rather, for a district to get a vote in a state legislature is a PRIVILEGE, and not a RIGHT. If your representative fails to represent your district, that is a problem for your district. It should not be a problem for OUR DEMOCRACY. WE don’t LIVE in your district, and could not give a rats patooty what you think should be done about climate change. ALL we know, is that we PAY our taxes, and deserve to GET A VOTE about stuff we CARE about.

    YOU in the GOP took that from us. ‘No taxation without representation’ led to war. It will again.

  3. J4Zonian Says:

    It’s hard to trust, or know what to think about, a legislature whose statehouse looks like it was designed by Mussolini’s Ur-inspired architect, more recently influenced by Bahá’í and who thought he was designing a giant 1900-era electrical generator.

    The legislators probably go in a back door, but I wonder what effect walking into this monstrosity every day has on their psyches.

    • rsmurf Says:

      We really don’t care what you think!

      • dumboldguy Says:

        What’s with the “we”, smurfy? Actually, it’s YOUR nearly indecipherable cryptic and monosyllabic “thoughts” that “we” don’t care about.

        Leave Jeffy alone (although I do agree that his maunderings about the appearance of an 80 year old building ARE a bit strange)—-he often DOES show evidence of worthwhile thought.

        Maybe we could instead talk about the Hitler-like appearance of two of the missing Repugnants—a little work on moustaches and some black hair dye and they’d pass.

  4. rsmurf Says:

    I heard a funny BUT TRUE saying. Never wrestle with a
    PIG, you both get dirty, and the PIG likes it.

  5. rsmurf Says:

    Whats even funnier is the PIG doesn’t realize he is a PIG!

    • dumboldguy Says:

      Double DUH! If you want to get into a battle of wits that you can win, smurfy, I suggest you go down to the nearest elementary school playground and look for a kid that drools. You are WAY outclassed here on Crock.

  6. rsmurf Says:

    And sometimes the pig admits its a pig!

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