SALEM, Ore. — Politicial barbs over the future of a controversial bill to address climate change through cap-and-trade escalated on Wednesday, with Governor Kate Brown saying that she would pursue a special session to make sure all bills see a vote.
Senate Republicans made an offer on Tuesday to "suspend the rules and pass all budget bills," but indicated that they would pursue "other options" over voting on House Bill 2020, the cap-and-trade bill that passed Oregon's House this week.
“Senate Republicans are willing to stay in the building and suspend the rules to pass all budget bills and do the work of the people. However, we are prepared to take action to stop HB 2020," said Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr. (R-Grants Pass). "The bill makes the urban-rural divide stronger than ever because the biggest polluters are in Oregon’s large cities. It is fundamentally inequitable to put the responsibility of cleaning up their pollution on the backs of rural Oregonians."
Republicans disappeared from the Capitol for four days in early May, protesting a bill for education funding that instituted a tax on businesses. They returned after Democrats, including Governor Brown, negotiated to give up several of their priorities for the session.
That agreement killed a bill that would have ended philosopical exemptions for vaccines and another bill that would have instituted comprehensive gun control measures. Governor Brown also indicated at the time that there would be consequences if Republicans attempted to deny a quorum once again, according to reporting by the Associated Press.
On Wednesday Gov. Brown sent her reply to the apparent threats of Senate Republicans, saying that she was preparing for a special session to ensure that all planned votes would be held.
"We ask for, and take on responsibility, as elected representatives of the people of Oregon to show up and speak up on their behalf. I’m disappointed in the Senate Republicans’ indications of a walkout, which would silence their constituents while stifling democracy. It’s not only dishonest, it violates the oaths they took to speak for their constituents as well as the word they gave to their colleagues and to me.
"People place their lives on the line to protect our democracy, and it’s a slap in the face of those sacrifices for the Senate Republicans to turn their back on respectful dialogue just because they don’t agree with others in the conversation," Gov. Brown said.
Her statement then indicated the possible 'consequences' she had hinted at previously.
"I am prepared to use all resources and tools available to me as Governor to ensure that Oregonians are being served by their leaders," Gov. Brown said. "I am in close communication with Oregon State Police and my office is making preparations for a special session to be held on July 2, 2019, in the event that the business of this state does not conclude by Sine Die. We will stay in Salem to work until our job is done."
Both federal and state governments in the U.S. have a storied (if not proud) history of "quorum busting" — the practice of a minority party denying the majority enough votes to pass legislation by avoiding the chamber. However, lawmakers are also vulnerable to being compelled to attend a vote by state police. In some cases, state lawmakers have even fled their own state in order to accomplish the tactic.