Republicans in Oregon are literally fleeing their state rather than take any sort of action to address climate change.
The state’s GOP lawmakers are refusing to sit for a vote on a new climate bill, one that would make Oregon the second state after California to adopt a cap-and-trade program in an effort to curb climate-heating greenhouse gas emissions.
So Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, ordered the state police to round up the conservative lawmakers. In response, they’re leaving the state.
The Republicans are demanding that the bill be voted on in a state referendum rather than being implemented by the legislature. Democrats want to act now. The negotiations fell to pieces late last night, so Republicans took a different tack: Walk out so that the legislature can’t reach quorum.
The Democrats have a majority in the statehouse — 18 to 12 — but they need 20 voting members present in order for their votes to count for anything. Without at least two Republicans, they won’t be able to pass their climate bill.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building,” Gov. Brown said in a statement on Thursday. “They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do.”
Things are really getting heated. One of the state’s GOP senators threatened to shoot any state trooper who came to try to get him to vote.
“Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” said Republican state Sen. Brian Boquist. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon — it’s just that simple.”
Boquist is known in his home state for running a business that was, essentially, a paramilitary organization of U.S. and Russian veterans who went to areas deemed too dangerous for regular troops, according to the Willamette Week.
The Senate Dems are also seeking to impose a $500 fine on the absent Senators for every day that they don’t show up. There’s a Gofundme that’s offering to pay those fines, and it’s raised over $4,000 as of Thursday afternoon. Lucky for the GOP state senators, they probably won’t need the Gofundme cash: Many of them have plenty of corporate campaign contributions in their coffers, as the Oregonian’s Rob Davis has noted.
The bill in question aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. New York just passed a similarly ambitious climate change bill, one that aims to get the state’s economy to 85 percent emissions reduction below 1990 levels by 2030.
It’s not the first time the GOP in Oregon has used a walkout to slow down the legislature. Earlier this session, they left the statehouse rather than vote on a school funding package.
And though the right is definitely strongly opposed to the Democrats’ climate bill, it doesn’t have the full support of the environmentalist left either. Ten years after California passed its own cap-and-trade law, the market-based approach to addressing climate change is being called into question by some environmental experts.
Cap-and-trade works by making polluters pay for every ton of carbon that they plan to emit, a cost that gradually increases over time, with the goal of getting companies to switch over to greener tech rather than paying to emit. But California’s having trouble with its cap-and-trade program, and some lawmakers in the state are worried that its program, as it’s currently structured, isn’t restrictive enough to reduce emissions as much as the state needs to in order to meet its goals.
While the left might think the cap-and-trade bill doesn’t go far enough, the right decries it as job killing. But California has added 2 million jobs to its economy since it implemented its own cap-and-trade program, according to a report from the Analysis Group. And the bill in Oregon includes a $10 million investment to help workers who might lose their jobs due to the climate policy.
Editor's note: This story has been updated to reflect Democrat's efforts to fine Republicans who fled.
Cover: A TV reporter interviews self-employed logger Bridger Hasbrouck, of Dallas, Ore., outside the Oregon State House in Salem, Ore., on Thursday, June 20, 2019, the day the Senate is scheduled to take up a bill that would create the nation's second cap-and-trade program to curb carbon emissions. Senate Republicans, however, pledged to walk out so there wouldn't be enough lawmakers present for a vote on House Bill 2020, which is extremely unpopular among loggers, truckers and many rural voters. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus)