SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — For the third time in less than a year, Oregon Republicans walked out of the Senate chamber over a cap-and-trade bill, bringing a halt to any legislative work that Gov. Kate Brown called a “taxpayer-funded vacation.”
Eleven GOP members walked out after the controversial bill passed through the Joint Ways and Means Committee on Monday morning. The only Republican that remained seated was Tim Knopp of Bend.
Senate Republicans walked out shortly after the passing of the bill and failed to return for the 11 a.m. floor session. Republicans have consistently argued they needed more time to read and understand the proposed legislation, also known as Senate Bill 1530.
Republicans said in a statement, “Senator Courtney’s actions leave no option for Senate Republicans but to boycott and deny a quorum because cap and trade is on the way to the Senate floor.”
“Democrats refused to work with Republicans and denied every amendment that was presented,” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. (R-Grants Pass) said in a statement. “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.”
But the legislative “work is now in jeopardy because Senate Republicans have chosen to walk off the job,” Brown said. “If they don’t like it they should show up and vote no.”
The governor called this walkout “substantially more disappointing” than the previous GOP work stoppages. The Republicans have shown, she said, they’re “not against climate policy, they’re against the democratic process.” Brown noted she ran on this climate issue and won the 2018 election by more than 7 points.
Watch Gov. Kate Brown’s full press conference:
“Our environment desperately needs us to take action, Oregonians want us to take action,” she said. “Oregonians are supportive of us tackling climate change.”
But the GOP “is playing politics,” she said, and called this “taxpayer-funded vacation” a “huge loss for the legislative process.”
“They were elected to be the voice of their constituents. They’re shutting down the people’s branch of government” by walking out and not doing their jobs, the governor said.
There is still time in this short legislative session to get the job done, Brown said, who added she’s willing to compromise with a sunset clause. Without at least one more Republican, the Senate doesn’t have the 20 members needed to vote on bills.
When asked if she would call a special session after March 7, Brown was non-committal. She said she would not, at this time, use Oregon State Police troopers to round up the rogue Senators.
In a statement, Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick said walking out is dishonorable and disrespectful.
“Walking out on the job is a dereliction of duty. Each of us took an oath of office and it is our responsibility to fulfill that oath and represent the voices of our constituents. These Oregon Senate Republicans are denying their constituents the representation they deserve and shutting down our democratic institution,” Burdick said.
Oregon Republicans made national headlines last year after state senators fled the state for eight days to protest the previously proposed cap and trade bill, known as House Bill 2020, which ultimately failed.
Activists on both sides of the bill are also putting pressure on lawmakers, with Timber Unity members arguing the bill would put undue pressure on low-income and rural Oregonians, while young climate activists see the bill as an investment in Oregon’s future.
KOIN 6 News will continue to follow this story.
Follow KOIN 6 for the latest news and weather