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Oregon Senate Republicans walk out to deny cap-and-trade vote

Senate Republican Leader Sen. Herman Baertschiger said that there was 'no other option' but to deny a quorum.

Posted: Feb 24, 2020 11:03 AM
Updated: Feb 24, 2020 5:41 PM

SALEM, Ore. — Republican lawmakers in the Oregon state Senate have vacated the capitol to deny a vote on Senate Bill 1530, the divisive cap-and-trade legislation that has been making its way toward the Senate floor.

According to Senate Republican Leader Senator Herman Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass, Senate President Peter Courtney joined a hung vote in the Joint Ways and Means Committee on Monday morning — adding his "yes" vote in order to move the bill toward the Senate floor against the objections of Republican lawmakers.

“Senator Courtney’s actions leave no other option for Senate Republicans but to boycott and deny quorum because cap and trade is on the way to the Senate floor," Sen. Baertschiger said in a statement published by Oregon Senate Republicans. "Democrats refused to work with Republicans and denied every amendment that was presented. Pay attention Oregon – this is a true example of partisan politics."

RELATED: Trucks circle Oregon capitol for 'Timber Unity' rally against cap-and-trade

Oregon is one of a few states that require a two-thirds majority "quorum" on the Senate floor in order to hold votes — meaning at least two-thirds of senators must be present. Though Democrats hold a supermajority in the legislature, they do not have enough to establish a quorum without at least a few Republican lawmakers.

When a Senate floor session was scheduled to begin at 11 a.m. on Monday morning, only one Republican senator appeared, the Oregonian reported. The others were already gone.

In 2019, Republican senators fled the capitol on two separate occasions to deny a quorum — once in an attempt to stop the Student Success Act, and another to stop a similar cap-and-trade bill. The first walk-out ended when Democrats agreed to kill two other bills in order to secure a vote, the second only ended when Democrats admitted that they did not have the votes to pass cap-and-trade.

Last week a coalition of Oregon county commissioners representing a number of counties in southern, central, and eastern Oregon published a flurry of proclamations opposing SB 1530.

"Instead of referring this legislation to let the people decide, the Democrats are willfully ignoring 26 counties and one district, representing nearly 2 million Oregonians that have signed proclamations against cap and trade, to push their agenda,” Sen. Baertschiger said.

Democrats did not issue a response to Republicans until later in the day on Monday, when House Majority Leader Barabara Smith Warner put out a statement condemning the walkout.

“The repeated walkouts of the Oregon Senate Republicans over the last year are a disgraceful assault on our democratic institutions. This is not normal, and this is not a game," said Rep. Warner. “Oregonians send us here to have hard conversations, advocate for them and get work done – not shut down our government. Through their actions, Senate Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars and telling the large majority of Oregonians that they don’t matter. Oregonians deserve so much better.”

Supporters of SB 1530 also spoke out in approval of the bill moving toward a floor vote as the short legislative session enters its final two weeks.

"It’s impossible to turn your back or run away from the climate crisis. This emergency doesn’t respect borders. From wildfires to water shortages to food sources dying off, Oregon will face devastation if business as usual is allowed to continue,” said Tera Hurst, executive director of Renew Oregon. “Oregonians voted for this legislature to do the work, represent all of Oregon, and implement solutions. It’s time for legislators to vote. Oregon must take responsibility for reducing its share of climate pollution, and we can do it in a way that invests in communities, jobs, and health, while strengthening our state against the impacts of the climate crisis.”

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