Nearly a dozen Republicans in Oregon’s Democratically-controlled state Senate walked out during a floor vote on an environmental bill on Monday, the latest skirmish in a long-running inter-party fight that’s roiled the statehouse.
At issue are disagreements on HB 1530, a cap and trade climate bill that had been approved by a Senate committee earlier in the day and was headed to the Senate for a full vote. The senators’ absence left the legislative body one senator short of a quorum, blocking the chamber’s proceedings. There were 19 Democrats present, and 20 lawmakers are needed for a quorum.
Oregon’s Senate Republicans argue that the Democratic majority is refusing to make amendments to the bill or “let the people decide” on the legislation.
“Senator (Peter) Courtney’s actions leave no other option for Senate Republicans but to boycott and deny quorum because cap and trade is on the way to the Senate floor,” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr. said in a statement. “Democrats refused to work with Republicans and denied every amendment that was presented. Pay attention Oregon – this is a true example of partisan politics.”
The Republicans claim the bill is set to hurt 2 million people across 26 counties in the state as it looks to significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
But Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, a Democrat, called the walkout by 11 Republicans in the state legislature a “dereliction of duty.”
“These Oregon Senate Republicans are denying their constituents the representation they deserve and shutting down our democratic institution,” Burdick said in a press release. “Serving in the Legislature is a great honor. Walking out on the job is dishonorable and disrespectful. I am disappointed in the Senate Republicans for taking this irresponsible action.”
Republicans staged a similar walkout last year over the same issue. In June, Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, was forced to call on the state police to locate the lawmakers and bring them back to the state Capitol.
The passage and signing of HB 1530 would have Oregon join nearly a dozen states that use market-based approaches to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The bill would put limits on emissions, and then would provide a mechanism for utilities to buy and sell “allowances” on emissions.
Some southern Oregon counties have already started passing resolutions opposing the bill, claiming the measure has the potential to increase utility and fuel costs and place additional tax burdens on local residents.
Oregon’s legislative session ends on March 7, the last date of the regular session for bills to be passed. Republicans have not signaled whether this bill will make it in time.
“If my colleagues will not allow for a fair process in the building, then I will represent my constituents from outside the building,” state Sen. Lynn Findley, a Republican and member of the committee on Environment and Natural Resources, said in a press release.
CNN’s Kate Sullivan, Jamie Ehrlich, Veronica Stracqualursi and Shawn Nottingham contributed to this report.