Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday authorized state police to locate Senate Republicans and bring them back to the state Capitol after some left the state to block the chamber's proceedings.
After more than eight hours of fruitless negotiations late into Wednesday night, Republican state senators in Oregon walked out of a session on Thursday over disagreements on HB 2020, a cap and trade climate bill. All 11 GOP senators failed to appear later Thursday for floor proceedings, leaving the legislative body two senators short of a quorum, according to Kate Kondayen, a spokeswoman for Brown.
At least some of the senators have left the state, according to a statement from the Oregon Senate Republicans, and the wife of one of them says they are all in Idaho at an undisclosed location.
"They all left and are in Idaho. I don't have a way of contacting him," Peggie Boquist, wife of Oregon GOP Sen. Brian Boquist, told CNN when asked the location of her husband.
Brian Boquist met Brown's initial warning to lawmakers by telling TV station KGW: "Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I'm not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It's just that simple."
The Oregon State Police said in a statement to CNN on Thursday that it is complying with the governor's "lawful directive," and "utilizing established relationships to have polite communication" with the missing senators.
"While we obviously have many tools at our disposal, patience and communication is and always will be our first, and preferred, option," the police said.
A view of the Senate chamber in Oregon on Thursday revealed empty seats during roll call, as the senators were marked "absent." The absence prompted Brown to authorize a request from Senate Democrats to "bring back their colleagues to finish the work they committed to push forward for Oregonians."
"As the executive of the agency, I am authorizing the State Police to fulfill the Senate Democrats' request," Brown's office said in a statement. "It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building. They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do."
The state Senate Republicans said in a statement Thursday that they "made the decision to walkout and have left the state to protest cap and trade because it should be referred to the ballot so every Oregonian has a voice."
The passage and signing of HB 2020 would have Oregon join 11 other states that use market-based approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bill would place a "cap," or an overall limit on emissions, and then would provide a mechanism to sell fuel providers "emission allowances." State Republicans argue that the measure should be referred to a state ballot rather than voted on in the Legislature.
"Protesting cap and trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job," Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. said in a statement Thursday. "We have endured threats of arrest, fines, and pulling community project funds from the Governor, Senate President and Majority Leader. We will not stand by and be bullied by the majority party any longer."