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How Oregon Republican Senators Killed a Bill by Running Away from the Police

Sen. Tim Knopp (R-Bend), in an interview at his cabin hideout in an undisclosed location in Idaho, maintained that the actions of his party were a political protest.

by Dexter Thomas and Myles Andrews-Duve
Jun 26 2019, 1:46pm

SALEM, Oregon — A climate change bill was pronounced dead in Oregon Tuesday, without anybody ever voting on it.

Last Thursday, the Oregon Senate was supposed to vote on HB 2020, a bill aimed at capping greenhouse gas emissions. Senate Republicans opposed the bill, but they were outnumbered on the floor. Even if each of them voted against it, it would almost certainly pass.

So instead of voting on the bill, they fled the state.

Oregon’s state constitution requires that a majority of senators be present for a vote to be held. So Senate Republicans calculated that if they could lay low until the current legislative session ended, the bill might die on its own.

Gov. Kate Brown was not amused by this tactic and sent Oregon State Troopers after them, in an attempt to bring them back and force them to vote.

Sen. Tim Knopp (R-Bend), in an interview at his cabin hideout in an undisclosed location in Idaho, maintained that the actions of his party were a political protest.

“18 percent of my constituents say that they would support increased gas taxes and increase natural gas prices to heat their homes and so on, and [support] losses in manufacturing jobs,” said Knopp. “But the majority of the constituents we represent don't. So we're doing the best job we can to represent them.”

Sen. James Manning Jr. (D-Eugene) disagreed. Speaking on Monday, he said that his colleagues across the aisle were sending a message to Oregonians that Republicans are “willing to jeopardize your livelihood… all under the guise that is one bill.”

For now, Democrats can do little more than urge their Republican colleagues to come out of hiding before the session ends. But the outlook is grim: On Tuesday morning, six days into the Republican walk out, Senate President Peter Courtney announced that the bill was effectively dead.

VICE NEWS visited Oregon (and Idaho) to find out how a rarely used political tactic could be used to circumvent the usual voting process.

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