SALEM, Ore. (KOIN) — Oregon Senate Republican Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr. said the senators will be back to work on Saturday morning to finish the legislative session.
Baertschiger made the announcement during a press conference on Friday morning — ending the 9-day walkout.
The decision was made after he was assured by Gov. Kate Brown that the cap-and-trade bill is dead.
“Our mission of walking out of this building was to kill cap-and-trade,” Baertschiger said. “That’s what our constituents said…and that’s what we did and I’m proud of this caucus, even though it’s probably the hardest thing that we have ever had to do in all of our lives.”
As of Friday morning, the $500 fines are still in place. According to Baertschiger, the Republicans used their personal funds to leave the state. He added that the senators were not together while out of state.
Baertschiger said he wasn’t sure if all the senators would make it back by Saturday morning, but expected most of them to be in attendance. He added that he believes they’ll be able to finish the session by Sunday.
Baertschiger added that the trust in the Capitol is “probably at the lowest it has ever been” and it will be a long time before legislators regain trust among each other.
The GOP senators walked out on June 20 to protest HB 2020 and left the state to avoid a vote. The move gained national attention — both positive and negative.
Those against HB 2020 said it would greatly hurt the timber industry and cause job losses.
What is HB 2020?
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.
Baertschiger said the Republicans tried to craft amendments on HB 2020 that would make it “a little more palatable for rural Oregon.”
But their plans were dashed when, according to Baertschiger , the governor’s staff called off talks with the GOP senators.
“At that point, the caucus made a decision, a hard decision and that was to leave the building and deny a quorum,” Baertschiger said.
The Senate minority leader said the decision to leave opened up a floodgate of negative feedback.
“Over the next few days, I had nothing but threats,” said Baertschiger. “Threats from the majority leader, threats from the governor and the speaker. I had no threats from the Senate president.”
“I was disappointed by the barrage of threats of state police, fines and the possible removal of capital construction projects from our districts. That saddens me, that’s how some people govern in this state.”
Baertschiger worries about how the public’s trust in Oregon lawmakers has been affected.
“I would agree that the trust in the Oregon State Capitol is probably at the lowest it has ever been and that saddens me because it is going to take a long, long time to regain trust amongst legislators — the damage that has been done this last session,” he said.