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Republican senators go AWOL again

SALEM — Republicans in the Senate boycotted a floor session Monday morning, putting a stop to the Senate before it could consider controversial greenhouse gas emissions legislation that has been a political lightning rod.

The Senate requires 20 senators be present to take votes.

Eighteen Democrats and one Republican, Sen. Tim Knopp, of Bend, were present for the 11 a.m. session Monday. The other 11 Republicans disappeared to protest the legislation, denying the Senate the quorum needed to act. At least two Republicans would be needed on the floor if all Democrats were there.

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, issued a call of the Senate to get any absent Republicans in the Capitol building to come to the floor. Before the floor session began, state troopers roamed the legislative halls.

Courtney then adjourned the floor session until 11 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 25, after an admonishment that policy and budget bills couldn’t get done if senators were absent. Lawmakers are facing a March 8 deadline to close the session.

He “implored” his “fellow senators” to return to the Senate.

The shutdown was triggered by a vote in the legislative Budget Committee hours earlier that sent Senate Bill 1530 to the full Senate. The committee rejected a Republican plan to refer the matter to voters.

Republican senators were hard to find on the third and fourth floors of the Senate side of the Capitol building late Monday morning, before the floor session was called.

Staff at the office of Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, said he was “not available at this time.” Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, has been excused for the next couple of days due to a family medical issue.

Workers in the office of Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, said Findley was “not here” and that “he’s not coming back.”

In a statement shortly before the floor session, Findley said, “If my colleagues will not allow for a fair process in the building, then I will represent my constituents from outside the building.”

Staff for Sen. Denyc Boles, R-Salem, referred questions to communications.

Kate Gillem, Senate Republican spokeswoman, said that all have walked out except for a “senator from Bend.”

Gillem said they would stay away for the rest of the session. She said they could maybe be drawn back if the bill could be referred to voters.

She didn’t say where they went.

“I don’t know,” she said. “They’ve been super tight-lipped. Even with staff.”

A group including three Democratic senators stand among the empty desks of Republican senators during a Senate floor session at the Oregon State Capitol in Salem May 7, 2019. Republicans denied the Senate a quorum so they could avoid voting on an education revenue bill. Senate Republicans walked out again this week. Connor Radnovich/Statesman-Journal via AP