SALEM, Ore. — The 2020 Oregon legislative session ended with an impasse on Thursday. With Republican lawmakers unwilling to return without assurances that a cap-and-trade bill would be off the table, and Democrats unwilling to let the other side "cherry pick" bills, neither side flinched.
With that, and with no Republicans in sight, Democratic lawmakers elected to close up shop. Both the House and Senate chambers adjourned the (particularly) short session.
The end of the session marks the end of the line for a number of critical funding bills, many of which likely would have received bipartisan support: Flood relief for Eastern Oregon, wildfire-fighting funds for the state's Department of Forestry, money to help address the housing and homelessness crisis, and funds to support the state's ailing mental health system.
According to Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, "nearly a hundred bills" will die in the Senate due to the grid-locked session.
As Republicans crowed, however, Thursday marked the end of the line for the cap-and-trade bill — regardless of the session's end. In regards to the other bills, Republicans pointed the finger back at their Democratic colleagues.
"I am shocked at the Speaker’s decision to end the session prematurely," said House Republican Leader Christine Drazan, R-Canby. "We still had time to pass necessary funding items to address the needs of Oregonians across the state, but Democratic leaders chose to sacrifice these budget bills and shared priorities in the name of their no-compromise approach to capand-trade. The supermajority set the agenda for this session, they inexplicably refused to allow Oregonians to vote on cap-and-trade, and they own this failed outcome."
— OR House Republicans (@OregonHouseGOP) March 6, 2020
Governor Kate Brown said that she would instead seek executive action to reach a similar end that the bill promised, a reduction in the state's carbon footprint.
“I have always been clear that a legislative solution was my preferred path to tackle the impacts of climate change for the resources it would bring to our rural communities and the flexibility it would provide for our businesses," Brown said. "However, I will not back down. In the coming days, I will be taking executive action to lower our greenhouse gas emissions."
Brown also said that she would be open to convening a special session, likely to revisit the funding bills that came to an untimely end this session:
“I am open to calling a special session if we can ensure it will benefit Oregonians. However, until legislative leaders bring me a plan for a functioning session I’m not going to waste taxpayer dollars on calling them back to the State Capitol.”
Environmental groups lauded the decision, praising Democrats for not giving into the walk-out tactics that Republicans have increasingly adopted of late.
"Today the Governor, the Senate President, the Speaker of the House, and the Democratic members of the Senate and House showed all Oregonians what true leadership looks like," said Doug Moore, executive director for the Oregon League of Conservation Voters. "In the face of the Republicans’ desertion of their jobs and abdication of their duties as legislators, we can take heart that they will not get the last word."
“Legislative leadership showed the strength Oregonians deserve by refusing to give in to the Republican walkouts, after repeated abuses. I am proud as an Oregonian of their resolve and their unwavering commitment to continue the work of the people this year,” said Tera Hurst, Executive Director of Renew Oregon.