SALEM, Ore. — Oregon's Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger (R-Grants Pass) held a press conference at the Capitol in Salem on Friday, indicating that a Republican walkout over controversial cap-and-trade bill HB 2020 was at an end.
"The bill is dead," Sen. Baertschiger said firmly, citing assurances from Senate President Peter Courtney, Governor Kate Brown, and members of the Democratic caucus who had planned on voting against the bill.
Sen. Courtney had previously indicated that the bill was dead already, with enough Democrats planning to vote against it that it had no hope of passing — even if the Republicans were to return and provide a quorum.
"Denying a quorum is something that should never be used until we get to a point where we no longer will talk," the Senate Minority Leader said. He indicated that he had initially opposed the idea, but was out-voted by other members of the Republican caucus, prompting them to leave the state and scatter in different directions.
At present, Sen. Baertschiger said that he was alone in returning to the Capitol. However, he said that he anticipated the other 10 Republican Senators of the "Oregon 11" would be returning to the building on Saturday, ready to vote on vital budget bills that have languished in their absence.
On Thursday, hundreds of truckers, farmers, loggers and other supporters of the Republican walkout gathered at the Capitol in Salem. Long convoys of semi-trucks streamed inexorably down the highways to parade in front of the building that Republican Senators had shunned more than a week prior.
"We had a rally yesterday that was unprecedented in the history of Oregon — it was rural Oregon," Sen. Baertschiger said. "I want you to know that these people came from hundreds of miles across the state. And that's why we walked."
While supporters of the cap-and-trade bill have lauded it as a necessary step for addressing climate change and moving toward greener industries, opponents have skewered it as a death knell for Oregon's traditional logging, trucking, and agriculture companies that employ thousands throughout the state — particularly in rural communities.
"I don't think anyone is against coming up with a carbon reduction policy," the Senate Minority Leader said. "But we've got to get it right."
The legislative session ends by midnight on Sunday night. According to Sen. Baertschiger, there would be "no need" for a Special Session, and that his caucus was prepared to vote on all remaining budget bills first, followed by policy bills.
This is a developing story, and NewsWatch 12 will update the article with more information as it emerges.