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GOP lawmakers leave the state to avoid vote on cap-and-trade bill

On Wednesday, Governor Brown said that she was preparing to call a special session and had been in contact with state police to ensure that votes went forward.

Posted: Jun 20, 2019 9:48 AM
Updated: Jun 20, 2019 3:12 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN and GILLIAN FLACCUS Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Oregon Gov. Kate Brown deployed the state police Thursday to try to round up Republican lawmakers who fled the Capitol in an attempt to block a vote on a landmark climate plan that would be the second of its kind in the nation.

Minority Republicans want the cap-and-trade proposal, which is aimed at dramatically lowering the state's greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, to be sent to voters instead of being instituted by lawmakers — but negotiations with Democrats collapsed, leading to the walkout, Kate Gillem, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans said Thursday.

Brown had warned a day earlier that she was in "close communication with Oregon State Police" and "prepared to use all resources and tools available."

Oregon State Police can force any senators they track down in Oregon into a patrol car to return them to the Capitol.

"Send bachelors and come heavily armed," Sen. Brian Boquist, a Republican from Dallas, said late Wednesday as the prospect of a walkout loomed. "I'm not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It's just that simple."

Boquist, who is reportedly in Idaho, did not respond to emails on Thursday after the Senate president publicly rebuked him for the remarks.

Gillem confirmed on Thursday that some members left the state to avoid a vote because state police don't have jurisdiction outside Oregon.

Democrats have an 18 to 12 majority in the chamber, but need 20 members present for a quorum.

This is the second time in this legislative session that minority GOP lawmakers have used a high-stakes walkout as a way to slow the process. Democrats have a rare supermajority in the House and Senate, meaning their Republican colleagues don't have many ways to influence the debate on major policy bills that would affect their constituents.

Republicans walked out of the Senate last month to block a school funding tax package. The standoff lasted four days, until the governor struck a deal to table legislation on gun control and vaccine requirements.

The tactic is rare, but it has been used throughout history, sometimes creating comical scenes. Abraham Lincoln once leapt out of a window in an attempt to deny a quorum when he was a lawmaker in Illinois. In Washington three decades ago, U.S. Sen. Bob Packwood, R-Oregon, was carried feet first into the Senate chamber after Democrats ordered the arrest of Republican senators who were denying a quorum.

In 2003, Texas Democrats fled to neighboring Oklahoma to deny a quorum, holing up in a Holiday Inn to block a GOP redistricting bill. The Republican House speaker ordered state troopers to find the Democrats and have them arrested. The Democrats returned to Texas after the bill's deadline passed, and it was effectively killed.

On Thursday, Oregon's Senate president pleaded with Republicans to return.

"I beg and beseech my fellow legislators to come to the floor. I need you, the Legislature needs you, the people of Oregon need you to pass budgets to take care of our citizens," Senate President Peter Courtney said in an emotional plea on the Senate floor. "I cannot do it without you. We cannot do it without you."

The walkout brings all Senate business to a halt with just over a week left in the legislative session. Senators still need to vote on the budget as well as legislation on affordable housing, paid family medical leave and an increased tobacco tax.

But the cap-and-trade legislation remains a sticking point.

Under the proposed bill, Oregon would put an overall limit on greenhouse gas emissions and auction off pollution "allowances" for each ton of carbon industries plan to emit. The legislation would lower that cap over time to encourage businesses to move away from fossil fuels: The state would reduce emissions to 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Those opposed to the cap-and-trade plan say it would exacerbate a growing divide between the liberal, urban parts of the state and the rural areas, which tend to be more conservative. The plan would increase the cost of fuel, damaging small business, truckers and the logging industry, which is already in freefall due to federal environmental protections, they say.


READ: Loggers gather at state capitol to protest cap-and-trade legislation


"Protesting cap and trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job," said Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr., of Grants Pass.

Under the proposed cap and trade program, the state would put an overall limit on greenhouse gas emissions and auction off pollution "allowances" for each ton of carbon industries plan to emit.

The legislation would lower that cap over time to encourage businesses to move away from fossil fuels: The state would reduce emissions to 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Democrats have presented the proposal as an efficient way to lower emissions while investing in low-income and rural communities' ability to adapt to climate change. It has the support of environmental groups, farmworkers and some trade unions.

"Protesting cap and trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job," said Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr., of Grants Pass.

A small group of loggers gathered to protest outside the Capitol on Thursday.

Bridger Hasbrouck, a 32-year-old self-employed logger from Dallas, Oregon, said the bill if passed would be "devastating" to his business because he uses diesel fuel to power all his logging equipment.

"There's a whole lot involved but the biggest thing that's very crippling is the fact that these bills would impose regulations that would take trucks off the road that people are using to earn their living," he said. "The American dream of owning a small business, it starts to go away."

Democrats say the measure is an efficient way to lower emissions while investing in low-income and rural communities' ability to adapt to climate change. It has the support of environmental groups, farmworkers and some trade unions.

The proposal also contains a $10 million investment to protect workers adversely affected by climate change policy, as some in transportation or manufacturing sector could face layoffs. The legislation provides unemployment benefits and pathways to clean energy jobs that, under the law, must provide competitive wages and benefits.

" 'Rural' here is not one voice," said Mimi Casteel, a farmer in rural Hopewell, Oregon.

"This is not just about gas prices — this is about the future of humanity. If Oregon can't be a leader in this particular case, then I don't think we have a very strong foot to stand on."

California has had for a decade an economy-wide cap and trade policy like the one Oregon is considering. Nine northeastern states have more limited cap-and-trade programs that target only the power sector.

Brown, a Democrat, said Wednesday she's willing to extend the legislative session — due to end next week — to keep the bill alive.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 133851

Reported Deaths: 1803
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah28467459
Washington18734171
Marion16247239
Clackamas11698138
Lane8353109
Jackson693085
Umatilla679368
Deschutes499936
Yamhill319045
Malheur313552
Linn311646
Polk245540
Klamath242838
Josephine174333
Benton170514
Jefferson170525
Douglas168743
Union111416
Wasco108123
Columbia104918
Lincoln99617
Hood River95421
Coos93815
Morrow93810
Clatsop6865
Crook62110
Baker5685
Tillamook3652
Curry3245
Lake2305
Grant2131
Harney1754
Wallowa963
Gilliam511
Sherman470
Wheeler201
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 3055568

Reported Deaths: 34441
CountyCasesDeaths
Los Angeles103280614122
San Bernardino2561091560
Riverside2504362645
San Diego2168352109
Orange2148082477
Santa Clara943661109
Kern86718565
Fresno82485968
Sacramento806781111
Alameda67952765
Ventura62101436
San Joaquin58290786
Contra Costa52965450
Stanislaus42882758
Tulare41867506
Monterey36126255
San Mateo32596309
San Francisco29321262
Solano25806106
Imperial25317465
Santa Barbara25083236
Merced24452308
Sonoma24068240
Kings19435145
Placer17380180
San Luis Obispo15929136
Madera13443151
Santa Cruz12298113
Marin11693157
Yolo10620131
Shasta9776122
Butte9474123
El Dorado782644
Sutter775478
Napa760140
Lassen519516
San Benito496343
Yuba495127
Tehama397142
Tuolumne338240
Nevada320673
Mendocino311432
Amador301631
Lake261230
Humboldt239324
Glenn193519
Colusa17339
Calaveras161723
Siskiyou144613
Mono11214
Inyo97429
Del Norte8662
Plumas5895
Modoc3853
Mariposa3464
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