As Oregon’s latest proposed cap and trade bill moved toward the Senate floor this week, the state’s Republican senators headed for the doors. Again.
Senate Bill 1530 A, which would change the way the state regulates and taxes greenhouse gas emissions, was moved out of the Legislature’s Joint Ways and Means Committee Monday morning, clearing the way for a vote by the full Senate, which is controlled by a Democratic super-majority.
In a press release that was sharply critical of Senate President Peter Courtney, Senate Republicans blamed Courtney and his use of “partisan politics” for the walkout, claiming he “rigged the vote” by joining the Ways and Means Committee to advance the bill, which they have said will “devastate” Oregon’s economy.
“Senator 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., from Grants Pass, said. “Democrats refused to work with Republicans and denied every amendment that was presented.”
Baertschiger also criticized Democrats for their refusal to refer cap and trade to voters. On the House side, Minority Leader Christine Drazan had moved an amendment to that chamber’s cap and trade bill that would have allowed Oregonians to vote on the proposal. It was rejected along party lines.
I moved an amendment last night in committee to allow Oregonians to vote on cap and trade. It was voted down along party lines. The legislature routinely refers measures to Oregonians. This measures has real impacts with no benefit. Let Oregonians vote. #orleg
“Pay attention Oregon – this is a true example of partisan politics,” Baertschiger said. “Instead of referring this legislation to let the people decide, the Democrats are willfully ignoring 26 counties and one district, representing nearly 2 million Oregonians that have signed proclamations against cap and trade, to push their agenda.”
In her own release, Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick fired back, saying the 11 GOP senators didn’t just walk out of the Capitol; they “walked out on their responsibility to serve their constituents.”
“Walking out on the job is a dereliction of duty,” she said. “Each of us took an oath of office, and it is our responsibility to fulfill that oath and represent the voices of our constituents.”
She said she was disappointed in her Republican colleagues for taking this “irresponsible action.”
“Serving in the Legislature is a great honor,” she said. “Walking out on the job is dishonorable and disrespectful.”
House Majority Leader Barbara Smith Warner was even more critical in her release chastising the senators on the other side of the aisle, calling their actions a “disgraceful assault on our democratic institutions.”
“This is not normal, and this is not a game,” she said. “Oregonians send us here to have hard conversations, advocate for them and get work done – not shut down our government. Through their actions, Senate Republicans are wasting taxpayer dollars and telling the large majority of Oregonians that they don’t matter. Oregonians deserve so much better.”
The war of the words continued on Twitter, with Oregon Senate Democrats saying they are at the Capitol and “ready to do the jobs they were elected to do,” despite the lack of a quorum.
The @ORSenDemocrats are here and ready to do the jobs we were elected to do. We each took an Oath of Office, and we take that seriously. Public service is a great honor, we will continue to act honorably. #orleg
Meanwhile, in response to a tweet by OPB political reporter Lauren Drake discussing some of the business that would be left undone if the senators remain absent for the remainder of the short session, House Republicans replied: “All of these bills could have been voted on anytime in the last three weeks.”
“Democrats control the schedule in this building and have prioritized passing legislation that will raise costs on Oregonians rather than passing necessary budget items.”
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