Oregon state police are searching for fleeing Republicans who protested a drastic climate change bill and walked out of the legislature, refusing to vote. Democrats control the Oregon Senate with 18 members to the Republicans’ 12, and since they need 20 to have a quorum, this was the only way the Republicans could stop the bill from being passed.
With little more than a week left in the legislative session and the budget still needing to be voted on, the walkout has the Democrats scrambling, and even pleading for the Republicans to return. Senate President Peter Courtney said:
“I beg and beseech my fellow legislators to come to the floor. I need you, the Legislature needs you, the people of Oregon need you to pass budgets to take care of our citizens.”
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown dispatched the state police to retrieve the errant senators, some of whom fled to other states rather than be captured and dragged back for the vote. However, law enforcement officials said “out of state resources” were assisting them in locating the missing Republicans.
State Sen. Brian Boquist warned before the walkout happened that he would not be forced to remain: “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”
The cap-and-trade proposal is aimed at dramatically lowering the state’s greenhouse emissions by 2050. According to the AP, the state would be able to reduce emissions to 45% below 1990 levels by 2035, and 80% below 1990 levels by the target goal of 2050. However, the bill would auction off “allowances” for each ton of carbon that industries intend to emit. The plan would increase the cost of fuel which would be damaging for loggers and truckers. Republicans feel that the people should be the ones to vote on it and not the lawmakers, and since Democrats refused to discuss it further and demanded a vote then and there, they walked out. “Protesting cap and trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job,” said Herman Baertschiger, Senate Republican leader from Grants Pass, OR.
State law allows for a fine of $500 per day that the senators are absent, as long as there are not enough members to vote. The state police have the authority to force the Republicans into their cars; however, the officials claimed they would instead use “polite communication” to return the lawmakers to duty.
This isn’t the first time the state’s GOP has used the walkout method to thwart a vote. In May, they walked out to block a school funding package. This particular standoff lasted for four days and ended after the governor struck a deal to table legislation on vaccine requirements and gun control.
Abraham Lincoln once used this method when he was a lawmaker in Illinois to prevent a quorum. However, instead of walking out of the building, he jumped out of the window.
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