SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon House Republicans joined their Senate colleagues and walked out of the State Capitol in a move aimed at blocking a cap-and-trade bill but that effectively shuts down the entire short legislative session.
Oregon Senate Republicans walked out over the cap-and-trade bill on Monday. On Tuesday, House GOP members joined their Senate counterparts. Calling it a “taxpayer-funded vacation,” Governor Kate Brown said this walkout is “substantially more disappointing” than the previous GOP work stoppages.
The GOP said it’s the only way it can block Brown’s carbon emissions bill from a vote and becoming law.
But climate activists who support the bill rallied in front of the Capitol and showed their anger with Republican lawmakers who have taken the legislative session captive with a rally dubbed “No More Costly Walkouts.” They gathered on the Capitol steps Tuesday morning as they call for the elected officials to return to work.
Republicans’ absence prevents a quorum, which prevents the House and the Senate from doing any business. The Republicans believe the cap-and-trade measure would hurt rural Oregon with higher gas taxes and they want the measure referred to the ballot for all of Oregon to decide.
One Republican supporter said the lawmakers “did what the people wanted who voted them in. I think they did the right thing.”
House Republican Leader Christine Drazan of Canby said Governor Brown and the majority party have not had interest in any compromises.
“Unfortunately, our attempts to achieve a bipartisan consensus that would take into account the views of all Oregonians were denied,” said Drazen. “Oregon House Republicans are taking a stand, with working families, in opposing Cap and Trade and this rigged process. We will continue to keep all lines of communication open. I call on Governor Brown and the majority party to refer Cap and Trade to the people.”
But a throng of opponents of the walkout see the GOP tactic differently.
“It shouldn’t take every decision in Oregon to go to the ballot,” one activist told KOIN 6 News. “We have hired representatives to do the work (the elected officials) … Walking out, that’s not what democracy is.”
So while the chambers sit empty there are still committee meetings underway to get bills to the floor just in case the Republicans return to the House and Senate.
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.
But don’t expect that anytime soon.
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