SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — After a weeks-long walkout by Republican members of the Oregon House and Senate, Speaker of the House Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney adjourned the short legislative session days before its scheduled end.
The move came hours after the GOP leaders said they would return on Sunday — but only to discuss budget bills, not a cap-and-trade bill that spurred the walkout.
And then — Gov. Kate Brown said she will issue an executive order to get that cap-and-trade bill into law.
Kotek and Courtney then held a press conference to discuss the action.
“It’s functionally over because of Republican obstructionism,” Kotek said.
Courtney said the GOP doesn’t like the short session but reminded them that “every county voted for the short session. Every county.”
He then said there will be a special session to deal with legislation that hasn’t been handled — and he said it won’t just be a one-day special session.
Both he and Kotek said these walkouts can not “become the norm.”
Courtney vowed to prevent lawmakers in the future from stopping the Legislature’s business with a walkout. And he made it very clear what’s at stake.
“This institution has been dramatically hurt over 4 walkouts. It is going to become a norm. Want to kill a bill? Just walk out. So there was much more than ‘Why don’t you just come in do what they say?’ No. No. No. Next question.”
Statements from Oregon elected officials over the adjournment of the short session:
Governor Kate Brown
“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. However, I will not back down. In the coming days, I will be taking executive action to lower our greenhouse gas emissions.
“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.”
Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick (D-Portland)
“There’s no excuse for this behavior. This is absolutely revolting. I’m angry and I’m disappointed. It is a great honor to serve in the State Capitol and act on behalf of Oregonians across the state. Republicans left Oregonians behind when they walked off the job. They should be ashamed. Oregonians deserve better.”
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 cap-and-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.”
House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland)
“The Republican walkouts have nothing to do with any specific piece of legislation. This is about a small group of legislators attempting to override the voice of Oregonians and doing the bidding of corporate polluters and special interests. We will not be held hostage by a few members who refuse to do their job and take joy in utilizing loopholes to shut down our government.”
What happened earlier in the day
The Republican walkout over the cap-and-trade bill continues to hobble any attempt at passing any kind of legislation in Oregon’s short session, which is due to end at 11:59 p.m. Sunday.
Kotek and Courtney said funding priorities for a range of projects that affect all parts of Oregon are on hold and need to be addressed quickly.
In a statement Thursday morning, House Republican Leader Christine Drazan said the GOP will return to discuss budget issues — but there’s a catch.
They won’t come back until Sunday and they will only discuss budget bills, not cap-and-trade.
“The House Republican Caucus broadly agrees with the funding priorities identified in yesterday’s press release from Speaker Kotek and President Courtney. House Republicans will provide a quorum and the rules suspensions necessary to pass these funding priorities on Sunday, March 8th, before the legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn,” the Canby Republican said in a statement.
Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger echoed her remarks in his own statement.
“After a tumultuous session, Senate Republicans are willing to attend the Sunday floor session to pass emergency budget bills, for example, the relief for flood victims in Eastern Oregon. The intent of the short session was to make budget adjustments, and that is what we expect to work on while being fiscally responsible with the hard-earned taxpayer dollars.”
Following the statements from the Republican leadership, Kotek released her own remarks on Republicans who “would get to cherry pick which bills live and die.”
Kotek said every bill that has passed through committees deserves a vote.
“I will not walk away from my obligation to every Oregonian that we must uphold the democratic process and the rule of law. The only deal I will agree to is if Republicans in both chambers return and agree to take a floor vote on every bill that has earned support through the public process that governs our legislative body.”
AWOL Republicans were subpoenaed to testify at a House Committee on Thursday. But Republicans intend to ignore those subpoenas and claim they are immune from these civil subpoenas over legislative issues.
Seven senators and representatives are talking about the important “economic justice and civil rights bills” that could die if Republicans don’t end their walkout.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story said the legislative session ended Saturday. Instead it ends Sunday, March 8.