Oregon Governor Threatens to Send State Police to Round Up Republicans after Walk-Out over Cap-and-Trade Stalemate

Oregon's Republican senators, for a second time, have refused to show up for the current legislative session in Salem, denying a quorum and grinding the legislature's business to a halt. Governor Kate Brown (D-Portland) has authorized the Oregon State Police to round up the wayward Senators and compel them to return to the Capitol. In response, one Republican Senator said that the police should send bachelors who are well armed.

The issue at hand is HB 2020, the cap-and-trade bill that threatens to cripple Oregon's economy. A vote was scheduled for the morning of June 20, but the GOP senators walked out after 10 hours of negotiations with the governor. Senate rules require 20 members be present for a quorum, but there are only 18 Democrats. They would need two Republicans to agree to return.

The larger picture, however, is a Democratic supermajority that has failed to deal with Republicans in good faith, despite promises to work together on legislation.

The cap-and-trade bill, which aims to lower carbon emissions to pre-1990 levels in a complicated tax scheme, has faced massive pushback as it wends its way through the legislature. Early in the session, legislators held town halls around the state to try to win buy-in from Oregon voters. Some reports indicated that those opposed to the idea outnumbered supporters at these meetings by as much as four or five to one.

On June 19, as the Senate prepared to take up the bill for a vote, a massive convoy of loggers, truckers, and other citizens involved in rural industries flooded Salem to protest on the Capitol steps.

In a statement, Senate Republicans explained:

No Reset on HB 2020; Senate Republicans Walk

SALEM, Ore. –After more than 8-hours of fruitless negotiations late into last night,the Democrats failed to offer a reset on House Bill 2020, cap and trade, breaching the agreement that was originally made to bring Senate Republicans back to the building after the first walkout.

Senate Republicans made the decision to walk out and have left the state to protest cap and trade because it should be referred to the ballot so every Oregonian has a voice.

“Protesting cap and trade by walking out today represent sour constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job,”said Senate Republican Leader, Herman Baertschiger, Jr. (R-Grants Pass).“We have endured threats of arrest, fines, and pulling community project funds from the Governor, Senate President and Majority Leader. We will not stand by and be bullied by the majority party any longer.Oregonians deserve better.It’s time for the majority party to consider all Oregonians–not just the ones in Portland.”

The Republican senators first walked out to deny a quorum in May over HB 3427, the multi-billion dollar gross receipts tax on most businesses in Oregon. They returned after negotiating with the governor and Senate president to kill several gun control bills and a bill that would lead to a massive increase in forced vaccinations for school children. At the time, Democrats in power promised to keep Republicans involved in the legislative process and work to alleviate their concerns about proposed legislation.

While that constituted a pretty significant win for the Republicans at the time, their leverage in a superminority position in both chambers remained limited. And, of course, the Democrats didn't wait all that long to break their promise.

Believe it or not, the Republicans actually hold all the cards after today's walkout. Oregon's Constitution requires the current legislative session to end on June 30, unless the full chamber votes to extend. Of course, Governor Brown has stated she will call a special session to address the unfinished legislation, but the Republicans hold some leverage here. All bills that passed the House and have stalled in the Senate would have to start all over, from scratch, in a new emergency session. That includes the headline bills to provide driver's cards to illegal aliens -- the referendum that voters overwhelmingly defeated in 2014 -- and a bill requiring employers to provide mandatory family leave time, along with a host of other progressive Democrat priorities. It also includes the cap-and-trade bill, which barely got through the Democratic House Caucus and required many amendments.

More importantly, the Senate Republicans have made one simple demand of the Democratic leadership that would lead to their return: remove the emergency clauses on all pending legislation. The legislature defines the emergency clause:

emergency clause

  • A statement added to the end of a measure which causes the act to become effective before the accustomed date. An emergency clause either sets a specific date or is effective immediately, which means that the measure will take effect on the date of its signature into law. NOTE: emergency clauses may not be attached to bills which would raise revenue.

Leaving behind for the moment the fact that the cap-and-trade bill would raise a projected $510 million in new taxes in its first year, making such a clause technically unconstitutional, Democrats have abused the emergency clause in Oregon for years with little recourse. They do it on purpose, of course, to block as many bills as they can from referral to the ballot. From a political standpoint, the Republicans still hold the cards. It seems perfectly reasonable to request the removal of the emergency clause on cap and trade, which then allows more time for a campaign to refer the newly passed law to the ballot for a vote by the people of Oregon. Should the Democrats in power refuse such a reasonable request going into a highly charged 2020 election season after massive overreach by progressive Democrats, energized Republicans can shout it from every mountaintop that the Democrats denied the will of Oregon voters on cap and trade, drivers cards for illegals, and a whole host of other crap that they rammed through without the slightest regard for the opinion of the voters.

Of course, Oregon Democrats know what the consequences of a ballot referral would mean for cap and trade, after their disastrous road show to gain support for the bill. They already know the voters don't like the driver's card bill after the 2014 vote. They know they've gone too far, and voters will likely reject them if given the chance. So will they accede to the demands of the Oregon Republicans? It seems the GOP has placed them in a no-win situation. If they allow these bills to hit a ballot, they lose. If they refuse, their incumbent legislators will likely get punished on Election Day 2020.

Rumor has it that many of the Senators have crossed state lines into a state that has no reciprocity agreement with Oregon State Police, meaning that they can't be compelled to return. Senate Republicans have no reason to back down at this point, and everything to gain. It's an amazing turn of events after supermajorities of Democrats took over both chambers of the Oregon legislature.

Jeff Reynolds is the author of the book, Behind the Curtain: Inside the Network of Progressive Billionaires and Their Campaign to Undermine Democracy, which you can find at WhoOwnsTheDems.com. Listen to Jeff's podcast at anchor.fm/BehindTheCurtain, and follow Jeff on Twitter @ChargerJeff.