WALKOUT UPDATE: Senate Republicans may end walkout
Oregon Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, offered a glimmer of hope Tuesday that the end of the six-day Senate walkout in protest of a cap-and-trade bill may be in sight.
“I hope so,” said Baertschiger from an undisclosed location outside of the state. “We’ve got a state to run. We’re trying to figure it out.”
The 11 Republican senators left Salem last week for parts unknown after Gov. Kate Brown threatened to send state troopers after them and fine them $500 a day.
“Everybody is in another state,” Baertschiger said.
Sen. Peter Courtney, Democratic Senate president, announced Tuesday there weren’t enough Democratic votes in the Senate to pass the controversial cap-and-trade bill. As many as three Democrats have signaled they may part with their party and vote against the legislation.
“House Bill 2020 does not have the votes on the Senate floor,” Courtney said. “That will not change.”
The cap-and-trade policy is a plan to cap carbon emissions and make industry pay for greenhouse gas production.
Baertschiger said Courtney’s statement, if backed up by formal assurances by the governor and other Democratic leaders, would help bring Republicans back to Salem to help pass the budget and other legislation before the end of session June 30.
“It’s the wishes of the caucus to have the assurances,” Baertschiger said.
Basically Republicans don’t want the cap-and-trade bill to come up for a vote, he said.
The Senate has been shut down because it can’t vote on legislation unless there are 20 senators on the floor. There are 18 Democratic senators. Sen. Jackie Winters, R-Salem, died May 29 and a replacement was announced on Tuesday, state Rep. Denyc Boles, R-Salem.
Sen. Jeff Golden, D-Ashland, said he thinks it would set a bad precedent if the legislation didn’t come up for a vote.
“It basically says 11 people can veto any policy in Oregon,” he said. “That’s a threat to representative democracy.”
Golden said that if the tables were turned, Republicans would be upset if the Democrats left the state to avoid voting on a bill.
While there is talk that the cap-and-trade bill might not get a Senate vote, Golden said he personally rejects that idea.
“There was a promise made to thousands of people that this bill would get a vote on the floor,” he said.
Republicans have trashed the legislation, saying it would destroy rural Oregon, but Golden said, “That’s just false.”
He said there are many provisions in the bill that would protect rural parts of the state, including tax credits for those living in less populated counties.
“There are a lot of provisions added to make sure rural Oregon doesn’t take an unfair hit,” he said.
Golden said Republicans’ characterizations of the detrimental effects of the bill are overplayed.
He said the climate bill is a response to the threat to the entire world, and the belief that Oregon needs to take a stand and do its part to lessen greenhouse gases.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.