PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Republican senators who walked out of the Oregon legislature Thursday and brought all legislative action to a halt are doing it because, they say, the minority needs to be heard, considered and not run over.
Kevin Hoar, the Communications Director for the Oregon Republican Party, told KOIN 6 News the reason for the walkout is simple. House Bill 2020 — the cap-and-trade bill at the heart of the walkout — is an important bill that deserves to have everyone be heard, he said.
He said minority rights have been abused and that Democrats are unwilling to negotiate. The GOP wants the bill referred to the ballot and let Oregon voters have a voice.
And, he said, if it takes something extreme like a walkout to deny a quorum, then so be it.
“You know, when you’re not being listened to and the people you’re representing are not being listened to and heard and considered, (walking out is) really the only thing you can do,” Hoar said. “The majority has gone to the point where they have abused their power. The only way you can get their attention is, frankly, not comply anymore, walk out.”
Hoar said he’s not in touch with the Republican senators. “They’re off in an undisclosed location. There’s a lot of rumors but at the same time we know that they’re doing the right thing.”
Alex Paul, the captain of District 36 of the Multnomah County Republican Party, said he thinks the walkout is an excellent idea.
“For some reason, even though I feel Republicans definitely stand for the average person, we’re defintiely a minority in this state,” Paul told KOIN 6 News. “This is something you have to take extreme steps to make it happen.”
Paul said the elected Republicans “have no voice. There’s a supermajority of Democrats and a Democrat governor, so we just literally have no voice at all. We vote the way we think things should happen and nothing happens.”
He’d like to see Brown abandon this bill and propose it as a referendum for voters.
“Then I’m fine that they come back,” Paul said. “Otherwise I don’t think that they should. I think it’s a dangerous bill for this state.”
In a statement, Clackamas County Republican Chair Traci Hensley said they “applaud this action because we have seen what the Democrat super majority can do to us.” She also quoted Republican Sen. Herman Baertschiger, who said, “They are not doing a good job of listening to ALL of Oregon.”
Senators risk a $500 fine for each day they fail to appear. Republicans said the fine hurts but they also believe the Senate Leadership Fund is able to pay.
And they say it’s worth it considering billions of dollars are on the line with the cap-and-trade bill, which they say will hurt businesses and families.
“A lot of people have said that this walk out is about climate change, but it’s really about changing the climate in Salem,” Hoar said. “And we’ve got a long way to go, a long way to go.”
The session ends June 30. If the senators don’t come back, Gov. Brown promises to call a special session beginning July 2.
“She has said that and we will use, as I think she used, the same terms all the tools and resources at our disposal to make sure that she remembers that she’s the governor of the entire state and not just the part of the state that voted for her,” Hoar said.