Oregon GOP Lawmakers Flee To Hold Off Climate Action

February 24, 2020

Oregon Public Broadcasting:

Cap and trade is on its way to the Senate floor in Oregon again — and Republicans are heading for the exits.

In a tense hearing Monday morning, the Oregon Legislature’s budget committee passed out Senate Bill 1530 largely along party lines.

SB 1530 would cap the greenhouse gas emissions allowed by the transportation, manufacturing and utility sectors, and lower the cap over time. Large emitters would be required to obtain credits for each metric ton of emissions and could trade those credits among themselves.

The vote marked a cutoff point Republicans have long signaled was likely to prompt them to stop showing up to the Capitol. After Monday’s hearing, they immediately showed those threats weren’t idle.

In a Senate floor session Monday morning, Sen. Tim Knopp of Bend was the only Republican present. Without at least one more GOP senator, the Senate cannot reach the 20-member quorum required to do business.

Republicans staged a walkout last June, when a similar bill was on the precipice of a Senate vote, prompting Senate President Peter Courtney to ask that state police be sent after them. 

The involvement of police added to tensions, sending Republicans across state lines and prompting controversy when one lawmaker, Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas, appeared to threaten violence against officers. 

On Monday, Courtney immediately ruled out calling on state police again, saying it would be a waste of public safety resources. 

“I don’t want state troopers running around trying to hunt down a bunch of elected officials saying, ‘Would you please come to the chamber and do your job?’” Courtney said. “That’s more of a big show thing, and I’m not interested in big shows.” 

In the floor session, Courtney implored Republicans to return to the Capitol in order to take up a raft of pressing policy and budget items that have yet to pass the Senate. Those include new spending appropriations for mental health, wildfire prevention, and homelessness, among other things, and policy bills that would enact new gun controls and address forest management.

In an interview, Courtney made clear that Democrats had consciously chosen to force a confrontation on the climate change bill before passing other measures first. 

“I told [Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr.] I’ve got to make a move on this thing,” Courtney said. “We’ve got to have a collision to show everybody where everybody is. That’s what happened today.” 

He added that SB 1530 has 17 Democratic votes in the Senate, more than enough to send it on to the House.  

Gov. Kate Brown, meanwhile, had withering words for Republicans — an approach that did not attract them back into the building last year. 

“It’s extremely disappointing that instead of staying to do the jobs they were elected to do Senate Republicans have chosen to take a taxpayer-funded vacation,” Brown said. “The Senate Republicans are not against climate policy, they are against the Democratic process.” 

7 Responses to “Oregon GOP Lawmakers Flee To Hold Off Climate Action”

  1. leptoquark Says:

    Are there any bills the Oregon GOP really, really wants? This would be a good time to tee those up and vote ’em down. It’s incredible how much the GOP is holding back both the country and individual states.

    • Earl Mardle Says:

      Without a quorum the remainder of the house can’t do a damned thing. And to be fair, there is probably nothing the GOP wants that the Democrats would feel OK about introducing, even as bait.

  2. indy222 Says:

    New laws must be enacted which force politicians to do their job, under penalty of jail time and stiff fines. This kind of behavior is beyond outrageous. The same applies to the DC Republicans who refused to vote on Obama’s SCOTUS nominee, and Trumps stone-walling of witnesses and testimonies. How on Earth can people justify allowing this to continue??

    • Earl Mardle Says:

      The people who are doing it no longer believe they have to justify anything to anyone. And so far they are right. Unless the American people can wake up and smell the cordite, they will no longer have even the pretense of a say in their own governance.

  3. dumboldguy Says:

    Why is anyone surprised about this behavior? Trump has been laying the groundwork for it for three years now, and if he is reelected, you can expect it to get even worse.

  4. ubrew12 Says:

    They should hold the vote without those absent, and carry out the people’s business. Representatives vote ‘Yea’ or ‘Nay’. Anarchists vote neither, and so shut down the Democracy. If a Representative chooses to become an Anarchist to prevent the Government from doing its job, then voters of Oregon can rightfully claim “No Taxation without Representation” and refuse to pay their taxes. Every voter in Oregon pays their taxes in expectation of being Represented in their Legislature, and anyone who would shut that Legislature down is anti-Democracy and worthy of being ignored. His own voters should remain unrepresented until they replace him.

    • ubrew12 Says:

      Any Representative who doesn’t show up to place a legislative vote is not representing his district. Presumably, this is not what his voters want, but it shouldn’t matter, either way, to the voters of the rest of the districts in that state. Allowing one anarchist in district 1 to prevent voters in districts 2, 3, and 4 from being properly represented is a profoundly anti-democratic injustice: because he was never elected to represent those voters. Apparently, those voters want a cap and trade legislation. They deserve a vote on it, and if district 1 doesn’t want to participate in that vote, then they still deserve a vote on it. District 1 is unrepresented (i.e. neither a ‘yea’ or a ‘nay’ is placed on their behalf, which is what representation is all about), but that is their problem: It is no problem for the voters of districts 2, 3, and 4. Allowing an anarchist in district 1 to ‘represent’ voters in districts 2, 3, and 4, by preventing their will from being expressed, is a recipe for general anarchy. I wouldn’t blame voters in districts 2, 3, and 4 to stop paying their taxes, since what is the point, if their will is not going to be expressed in the Legislature?


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