A dozen Oregon Republican state senators apparently remained out-of-reach of state troopers Tuesday, creating a standoff for a vote on House Bill (HB) 2020 to create programs related to climate change.
State Senate GOP leader Herman Baertschiger, who is leading the opposition, called the bill a "devastating gas and emission tax” and said the caucus intends “to remain out of state.”
The proposal, already approved by the state House, which like the state Senate is controlled by Democrats, calls for Oregon to adopt an emission cap-and-trade program and establish a Carbon Policy Office to adopt "climate action programs.” The bill also would abolish state carbon standards.
GOP senators have denied the upper house a quorum of 20 members since late last week, and apparently remain out of the jurisdiction of state police, which were ordered by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown to bring them in. The state Senate’s 18 Democrats need at least two Republican legislators to make up a quorum.
The absent senators are said to be amassing fines of $500/day for missing the sessions.
According to the Republicans, the Democratic supermajority has attempted to steamroll the climate change legislation, and a boycott was their only leverage.
Proponents of the bill, including Portland General Electric, view cap-and-trade as working with the state's overall initiatives and no different than transitioning to renewable power and eliminating coal-fired generation.
Portland, OR-based natural gas utility, NW Natural has said it wants to avoid current estimates of an 11% spike in retail gas utility bills, and the Northwest Gas Association has been working to ease HB 2020's impact on gas customers through amendments.
A key sticking point is said to HB 2020's "emergency clause," making the bill effective once it is signed by Brown, who supports the measure. If the clause were to be removed, the bill under state law could be referred to a ballot measure with 75,000 voter signatures.
Brown reportedly said it was "absolutely unacceptable” that the GOP senate had turned its back on constituents, but the senators countered they were "doing our constituents' work" by opposing the bill.