SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon’s Republican state senators, facing daily $500 fines for not showing up, vow to run out the clock on the legislative session scheduled to end June 30.
The session ends on June 30, which means if Republicans don’t come back by then, all the bills from the previous session will have to be re-introduced in a special session.
Governor Kate Brown already said she’ll call a special session of the legislature beginning July 2 if there are still bills and business to be done.
The 11 GOP senators walked out of a legislative session on Thursday to prevent a quorum — effectively blocking votes on any and all bills, including the cap-and-trade measure. They had until 11 a.m. Friday to return to the Oregon Senate, however, none did.
In a statement Friday afternoon on his Facebook page, Senate Republican Whip Dennis Linthicum of Klamath Falls said, “Senate Republicans will run out the clock on the legislative session as the state budget is fin and funded until this storm of false narratives and intimidation passes.”
KOIN 6 News learned the senators are out of state.
Washington Gov. Jay Inslee tweeted on Friday morning, “To the Republican senators fleeing Oregon to stop climate change legislation: You are not welcome in Washington. Stop this foolish stunt.”
The session scheduled for Saturday morning has been canceled due to a planned rally outside the Oregon State Capitol.
Republican Sen. Tim Knopp said Friday conservatives plan to file a lawsuit in protest over the fine.
Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick says that the fine is written into statute. She adds that Republicans are holding up portions of the budget in addition to the climate bill.
Knopp says conservatives are prepared to stay away for as long as it takes. A GoFundMe to cover senators’ expenses and fines has raised more than $4,000.
The issue: Cap-and-trade
HB 2020 passed the House on Monday night. House Bill 2020 would create a cap-and-trade system that would control air pollution by capping the amount of carbon a business could produce. Businesses can emit more if they buy the rights from other companies who don’t use their limit
Some Senate Democrats are frustrated by what they call a delay tactic over the cap-and-trade bill.
“We’ve been talking about this for the past 12 years,” Sen. Lew Frederick told KOIN 6 News. “We’ve had conferences, hearings, meetings in 2018. We were told the bill presented was too vague. We made more details. Now it’s too detailed.”
Senate Democrats will hold a weekend session beginning Saturday with the hope their Republican colleagues will show up.
For a quorum, there needs to be 20 of the 29 senators present. The Democrats have 18 senators, so if 2 Republicans show up business can resume.
But the GOP vows not to show up.
OSP troopers now involved
Gov. Kate Brown authorized Oregon State Police to find the missing members of the GOP and bring them back. Troopers also have the authority to arrest the lawmakers if they refuse to willingly return.
OSP spokesperson Tim Fox said they will go to great lengths to avoid arresting senators and no physical contact is permitted without the OSP superintendent’s permission.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.