SALEM, Ore. — On Tuesday, Oregon House Republicans decided to join their state Senate colleagues in boycotting the legislature in protest against the cap-and-trade bill.
Republican senators announced their intention to walk off the job on Monday after Senate President Peter Courtney passed the cap-and-trade bill, SB 1530, out of the final committee and toward the Senate floor.
“From the first day of this short session it has been clear that Governor Brown and the majority party have not had an interest in respecting the legislative process and have repeatedly refused to compromise. Each and every amendment we offered on Cap and
Trade in committee has been rejected," said House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby.
The move by House Republicans marks the second time in two weeks that they have boycotted a vote in symbolic protest against the bill.
“I have routinely reached out to Republicans in a genuine effort to hear their ideas and compromise where we can. My door is always open," said House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, in response to the walkout. "For now, they have chosen to walk off the job. We may disagree on policy, but one thing is for sure — we can’t reach consensus if the Republicans don’t show up for work.”
Rep. Drazan stuck by what Republicans have insisted most frequently of late — that cap-and-trade should be referred to the voters as a ballot measure instead of passed through the legislature by the Democratic supermajority.
"I had remained optimistic up until yesterday that a compromise could be reached. Unfortunately, our attempts to achieve a bipartisan consensus that would take into account the views of all Oregonians were denied," Drazan said. "Oregon House Republicans are taking a stand, with working families, in opposing Cap and Trade and this rigged process. We will continue to keep all lines of communication open. I call on Governor Brown and the majority party to refer Cap and Trade to the people.”
Opponents of SB 1530 have argued that it will raise fuel and energy costs to the point that it will force businesses in Oregon's major industries — particularly timber, trucking, and farming — to shut down or move out of the state, disproportionately impacting rural Oregon counties.
Democrats argue that the bill, particularly with its latest amendments, shields rural Oregon from the brunt of additional costs and only slowly grows to include some of those counties over the next decade. According to a statement from House Democrats, the current bill has been largely shaped by input from Republicans and their outspoken constituents.
“For the last three years, Democrats across the Oregon Capitol have worked in good faith with Republicans to find compromise on carbon legislation," said House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner, D-Portland. "In just the last year alone, we have held more than 35 hours of public hearings, gone on a statewide tour, had countless hours of conversations between stakeholders and made significant changes in response to our Republican colleagues’ concerns. The reality is, in today’s Republican party run by Donald Trump, nothing will ever be enough for them."
California passed and adopted a similar cap-and-trade bill in 2013. Washington state continues to debate its own version of a cap-and-trade program.
This is a developing story and will be updated with more details as they emerge.