Absent GOP holds all Oregon legislation hostage


Republicans walked out over cap-and-trade, but everything is on hold

SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Almost all of Oregon’s Republican lawmakers were missing — again — from the State Capitol in Salem on Wednesday.

They’re boycotting the short legislative session to block Gov. Kate Brown’s carbon emissions bill from a vote. Without them, there is no quorum — that is, not enough lawmakers on the floor by law to take any votes.

There are hundreds of bills currently on hold that would help everything from school funding to public health and safety. Lawmakers have $500 million of taxpayers money to divvy up and some of that is supposed to go to help programs and services as well as shelters for the homeless.

Republican lawmakers shortly before they walked out of the legislative session at the Oregon State Capitol, February 24, 2020 (KOIN)

One bill would require gun owners to lock up their weapons to prevent accidental deaths or suicides. Another would allocate millions of dollars to prevent wildfires by thinning forests and adding more firefighters.

Yet another bill to help foster kids get permanent homes (Senate Bill 1518) was on the House floor for a vote Monday when Republicans walked out.

“We would be able to take 700 kids in Oregon’s foster care system today and get them adopted by September. There are kids for whom the only thing between them and a forever family is completion of the paperwork to make it happen,” said Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis.)

That bill would have required the state to make foster kids a top priority.

The eastern Oregon region recently devastated by flooding received a financial boost from Kate Brown Wednesday. The governor announced the state will fund $1.8 million in stopgap funding for levee repairs in Pendleton. The $1.8 million is the only portion of the package that can be advanced without the approval of the Oregon legislature.

Meanwhile, a Senate committee passed an amendment to a bill to ensure that campaign contributions cannot be solicited or used to pay fines or legal expenses incurred from being AWOL from the Legislature. The approval moves the bill onto a stack of other legislation that is frozen because of the walkout.

The Republican lawmakers who left said they’re not coming back until Democrats either kill the cap-and-trade bill or send it to the public for a vote. They say that’s what their constituents want.

Democrats are saying no. They have the votes, they campaigned on this issue and it’s what their constituents want passed this session.

The session is scheduled to end in early March.

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