Oregon Republican walkout over climate bill drags on

The Oregon Capitol remained at a standstill Wednesday with only four days left in the legislative session, and it remains unclear when — or if— the Senate's 11 Republicans will return to the statehouse and end a walkout over a climate bill.

Posted: Jun 26, 2019 3:09 PM
Updated: Jun 26, 2019 3:15 PM

By SARAH ZIMMERMAN Associated Press

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — The Oregon Capitol remained at a standstill Wednesday with only four days left in the legislative session, and it remains unclear when — or if — the Senate's 11 Republicans will return to the statehouse and end a walkout over a climate bill.

Republicans have now been absent from the statehouse for one week in order to block a vote on a plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions through a cap on carbon. Although Senate President Peter Courtney announced Tuesday that the proposal no longer has support among Democrats, the admission didn't convince conservatives to immediately return.

Negotiations on the Republicans' return continue to remain at an impasse, and a spokesman for Senate Democrats said via email "there's nothing new to report" about where things stand.

Sen. Tim Knopp has told news outlets that he hopes conservatives can return Friday, a day after a planned rally at the Capitol in support of the rogue lawmakers. Senate Republicans for the past few days have been pushing hard over social media to get their constituents to show up to an all-day "Freedom Rally" organized by truckers and loggers in Southern Oregon.

"This rally on Thursday is about we the people displaying our full passion against a Super Majority that is completely disconnected and dismissive of us when it comes to protecting and representing our values, economies, and overall way of life," wrote Sen. Dallas Heard, whose brother is behind the protest.


READ: In Oregon, stark rural-urban divide fuels climate dispute


Knopp, Heard and other Republicans didn't respond to requests for comment.

Conservative senators have said that they've fled the state to avoid taking a vote on what would be the nation's second statewide cap and trade program after California. They say it will kill jobs, raise the cost of fuel and gut small businesses in rural areas.

But the standoff also puts dozens of policies at risk including legislation directly benefiting rural parts of the state. Legislation expanding broadband access and possible extra funding to help prevent wildfires in southern Oregon could be on the chopping block if Senate leadership is unable to coax Republicans back before Sunday.

"We are likely — if Republicans don't come back — to lose a lot of key projects in rural Oregon," Gov. Kate Brown told The Associated Press earlier this week. "You can't move forward on budgets without rural voices being at the table."

Brown said she's willing to call a special session next week if needed, but the dozens of bills currently awaiting Senate approval would be scratched. Lawmakers would have to reintroduce policies and again put them through the legislative process.


READ: Oregon governor says GOP must return to state


The Senate also still needs to approve a majority of the budget, including funding for the state's public universities, foster care system and the state's public health agency.

Brown signed a continuing resolution Tuesday to fund agencies at current operating levels until mid-September. But many agencies who were counting on increased budgets may have to sit tight.

Oregon's seven public universities, for example, were counting on a $100 million funding increase from the Legislature to rein in tuition increases. Kyle Thomas, spokesman for the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission, said that the impasse won't affect tuition levels just yet. But that could change if the standoff were to drag on into the summer.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

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Reported Deaths: 2460
CountyCasesDeaths
Multnomah34800568
Washington23412229
Marion20116299
Clackamas15311204
Lane11554144
Jackson9904127
Umatilla796883
Deschutes708272
Linn414263
Yamhill408775
Klamath345259
Polk342952
Malheur342758
Josephine305462
Douglas304365
Benton273218
Jefferson206432
Coos196831
Columbia153826
Union141124
Lincoln129820
Wasco128928
Hood River112429
Morrow107915
Clatsop8918
Crook87819
Baker85614
Curry5939
Tillamook5803
Lake4137
Grant4064
Harney3056
Wallowa1575
Sherman570
Gilliam561
Wheeler251
Unassigned00

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San Bernardino2945774550
San Diego2748113674
Orange2688694891
Santa Clara1169712013
Kern1078251322
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Fresno1005001643
Alameda852561477
Ventura802301000
San Joaquin714311334
Contra Costa66927782
Stanislaus603831028
Tulare49383830
Monterey43267357
San Mateo41107560
San Francisco35993517
Santa Barbara33863446
Solano31875239
Merced31196452
Sonoma29679311
Imperial27962719
Kings22766245
Placer21751283
San Luis Obispo20917256
Madera16250239
Santa Cruz15554204
Marin13860226
Yolo13559199
Shasta11677217
Butte11549196
El Dorado9719109
Napa965479
Sutter9268109
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San Benito598263
Lassen566924
Tehama543056
Nevada444775
Tuolumne406664
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Amador362151
Humboldt358737
Lake340643
Glenn235525
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Calaveras205551
Siskiyou194021
Inyo141738
Del Norte12747
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