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Democrats end 2020 legislative session

SALEM — In an extraordinary move, Democratic legislators Thursday effectively ended the contentious and gridlocked 2020 Legislature, killing key legislation and taking with it the hotly debated climate change bill that Republicans fought.

“This is a failed short session,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, from behind the dais Thursday afternoon.

Democrats rejected a bid by Republicans to return Sunday to the Capitol to deal with limited legislation.

Republicans in the House and Senate have been boycotting the legislature for more than a week to avoid taking a vote on a proposal meant to cut the state’s greenhouse gas emissions.

Their absence means the House and Senate didn’t have the legal quorum to transact business, which stopped action on legislation last week.

Under the state’s constitution, lawmakers must officially adjourn by 11:59 p.m. Sunday, March 8.

Lawmakers are closing up shop in the midst of what House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, called a “constitutional crisis” in her last floor speech of the session.

Kotek and Courtney said they would convene the State Emergency Board Monday, March 9, to allocate money in a special state reserve fund to respond to the growing threat of the coronavirus and recent devastating floods in Eastern Oregon.

Gov. Kate Brown could explore using executive power to enact limits on greenhouse gas emissions, according to remarks by Courtney and Kotek on their respective chamber floors.