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Walkout ends, but not bad blood

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The Senate Republican walkout has ended.

Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger, Jr., R-Grants Pass, said Friday that Republican senators would report back to work at 9 a.m. Saturday after fleeing the state a week ago in a dispute over a proposed cap-and-trade bill.

“We kept telling them that this bill would devastate rural Oregon,” he said. “Now they believe us.”

House Bill 2020, which sought to reduce carbon emissions in the state, is apparently dead, with truckers, loggers and others protesting it in front of the Capitol for the past week.

“Our mission to walk out of this building was to kill cap and trade, even though it was the hardest thing ever to do in our lives,” Baertschiger said.

He said he personally didn’t support the idea at first, but a majority of his caucus did. Baertschiger said he thought walkouts should be used sparingly, and he interpreted the state’s Constitution allowing a lack of quorum as a mechanism for leverage by a minority party.

Gov. Kate Brown had ordered state troopers to find the errant Republicans, and she promised to fine them $500 a day during the walkout.

Baertschiger said senators are in negotiations about the fine. He said Republicans used their own money to leave the state.

He said his caucus of 11 senators supports a carbon-reduction policy, but not the one proposed by Democrats.

“We’ve got to get it right,” he said.

With only two days left before the Legislature is set to adjourn, Baertschiger said he’s confident there will be time to get all the bills voted on.

While the walkout may be over, there is still bad blood in the Capitol.

Baertschiger said he was disappointed by the barrage of threats, including fines, coming from some Democrats. He said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, didn’t engage in threats.

“At that time a lot of tempers were flaring,” he said.

Baertschiger, who represents northern Jackson County, said Brown and House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, threatened to block appropriations for districts represented by the Republican senators.

Republicans decided on a walkout after negotiations with Brown ended at an impasse June 19, Baertschiger said.

“That bill was horrible for the lower-income people in Oregon,” he said. “We just had a bill that we could not accept.”

Representatives from Brown’s and Kotek’s offices did not return calls for comment Friday.

Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, said ending the session June 30 is dependent on the ability to suspend many Senate rules, including time-consuming second or third readings of bills. Also, some bills have to go back to the House for passage.

But suspending rules might be viewed warily by Republicans, because it speeds up the process to pass bills, possibly providing cover for House Bill 2020 to be placed back on the table.

“This is going to continue to be a chess game,” Golden said.

He did say that he thought House Bill 2020 is dead. He also said a vaccination bill and gun control bill that were taken off the table after Republicans staged their first walkout are also dead.

“I’d be really surprised,” Golden said. “We’d have people saying, ‘We can’t trust Democrats.’”

At this point, the Senate isn’t likely to take up controversial legislation because energy levels are particularly low and the clock is running out, Golden said.

As far as House Bill 5050, referred to as the “Christmas tree bill,” Golden said he has no personal knowledge of threats to deprive rural districts of projects.

In fact, Golden said a majority of the money in the bill is earmarked for rural areas of the state.

He did agree with Baertshiger’s assessment that this has been one of the worst episodes in recent memory for the Legislature.

“The trust level has never been as low in Salem,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger announces the walkout has ended during press conference Friday morning.
Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger announces the walkout has ended during press conference Friday morning.