Oregon Republican senators end walkout over carbon bill

National

Truckers and loggers opposed to the carbon capping bill hold a rally at the Oregon Capitol Thursday morning, June 27, 2019. – Truckers and loggers opposed to the carbon capping bill hold a rally at the Oregon Capitol Thursday morning, June 27, 2019. (Noble Guyon/The Oregonian via AP)

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Republican lawmakers returned to the Oregon Senate on Saturday, ending an acrimonious nine-day walkout over a carbon emissions bill that would have been the second such legislation in the nation.

The boycott had escalated when the Democratic governor ordered the state police to find and return the rogue Republicans to the Senate so the chamber could convene, and a counter-threat by one GOP senator to violently resist any such attempt. Senate Republicans fled the state to avoid being forcibly returned by the Oregon State Police, whose jurisdiction ends at the state line.

Democrats have an 18 to 12 majority in the Senate but need at least 20 members — and therefore at least two Republicans — present to vote on legislation.

Nine minority Republicans returned to the Senate on Saturday after Senate President Peter Courtney said the majority Democrats lacked the necessary 16 votes to pass the legislation, a statewide cap on carbon that allows companies to trade pollution credits. Shortly after convening, senators quickly voted 17-10 to send the climate proposal back to committee, essentially killing it for the session.

Sen. Sara Gelser, a Democrat from the college town of Corvallis, said the demise of the cap-and-trade bill has deeply upset many constituents.

“That’s a bill that’s been many, many years in the making,” Gelser told reporters Saturday. “I think there’s a lot of heartbreak, but today is one day and we’ll come back and address it. We have to. Our planet demands it.”

The House had previously passed the bill, one of the centerpieces of Oregon’s 2019 legislative session, which is scheduled to end late Sunday.

Republicans, who make up the minority in both chambers, uniformly opposed the proposal saying it would increase the cost of fuel and wreak financial havoc on the trucking and the logging industries.

One of the Republicans absent Saturday was Sen. Brian Boquist, who had told state police to come heavily armed and to send bachelor officers if they were going to forcibly return him to the Senate during the walkout. Senate Republican leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr., on Friday refused to condemn Boquist’s words, only saying the comments were unhelpful.

Boquist faces a formal complaint that will be taken up at a special committee hearing in July.

The walkout by the Republicans, which began June 20, inspired protests at the Capitol by their backers and led to the building being closed one day due to a possible militia threat.

But Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick said that the walkout didn’t change much, as the measure didn’t have enough support to get to the governor’s desk even before Republicans left the statehouse.

“As the person who counts the votes, my personal sense is that the votes were not there,” Burdick told reporters earlier this week.

The Republicans, though, painted their boycott as a triumph.

“Our mission in walking out was to kill cap and trade,” Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger told reporters Friday. “And that’s what we did.”

Democrats had said the climate legislation was critical to make Oregon a leader in the fight against climate change and will ultimately create jobs and transform the economy.

The bill, if passed, would have been the second in the nation, after California, to cap and trade pollution credits among companies. It aimed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases by 2050 by capping carbon emissions and requiring businesses to buy or trade for an ever-dwindling pool of pollution “allowances.”

With only two days before the 2019 legislative session officially ends, the Senate hurried through some of the more than 100 bills and motions that were still pending. Among the measures are ones on paid family and medical leave, campaign funding, and funding for the Oregon Food Bank and for Medicaid. Other big-ticket items are a bill aimed at addressing sexual harassment in the Capitol, money to expand affordable housing and an increased tobacco tax.

The Republicans wielded power disproportionate to their numbers this session. They walked out of the Senate last month to block a school funding tax package. They returned only after Gov. Kate Brown brokered a deal in which Democrats dropped legislation on gun control and children’s vaccination requirements.

“This is not how our democracy is supposed to work,” said Tara Hurst, executive director of the lobbying group Renew Oregon, which helped craft the climate proposal.

Rep. Rachel Prusak, a freshman Democrat from a Portland suburb, said she is “heartbroken over the state of our Legislature.”

Eleven Republicans participated in the walkout, with one Senate seat vacant due to the death of veteran lawmaker Jackie Winters in May, from cancer.

Denyc Boles, who had been serving in the House, was sworn in Friday to take Winters’ seat, restoring the GOP caucus to its full number of 12.

___

This story has been updated to correct the spelling of the last name for Rep. Rachel Prusak.

___

Follow Andrew Selsky on Twitter at https://twitter.com/andrewselsky and Sarah Zimmerman at http://www.twitter.com/sarahzimm95

Copyright 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Scattered Clouds

Abbeville

60°F Scattered Clouds Feels like 60°
Wind
0 mph
Humidity
92%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Partly to mostly cloudy. Low 53F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.
53°F Partly to mostly cloudy. Low 53F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.
Wind
8 mph N
Precip
10%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waxing Gibbous
Scattered Clouds

Crowley

59°F Scattered Clouds Feels like 59°
Wind
5 mph SE
Humidity
97%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Some clouds. Low 52F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.
53°F Some clouds. Low 52F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.
Wind
8 mph N
Precip
10%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waxing Gibbous
Overcast

Opelousas

57°F Overcast Feels like 57°
Wind
5 mph SE
Humidity
91%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Partly cloudy early with increasing clouds overnight. Low 51F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.
53°F Partly cloudy early with increasing clouds overnight. Low 51F. Winds NNE at 10 to 15 mph.
Wind
8 mph N
Precip
10%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waxing Gibbous
Broken Clouds

Breaux Bridge

57°F Broken Clouds Feels like 57°
Wind
0 mph
Humidity
93%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Partly cloudy skies this evening will become overcast overnight. Low 53F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.
53°F Partly cloudy skies this evening will become overcast overnight. Low 53F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.
Wind
8 mph N
Precip
10%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waxing Gibbous
Scattered Clouds

New Iberia

61°F Scattered Clouds Feels like 61°
Wind
5 mph S
Humidity
100%
Sunrise
Sunset

Tonight

Partly cloudy skies early will give way to cloudy skies late. Low 54F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.
53°F Partly cloudy skies early will give way to cloudy skies late. Low 54F. Winds N at 5 to 10 mph.
Wind
8 mph N
Precip
20%
Sunset
Moon Phase
Waxing Gibbous

Sidebar

Trending Stories