Democratic lawmakers in Oregon are attempting to push through a radical environmentalist bill that would impose an economy-wrecking “cap-and-trade” policy limiting carbon emissions — but Republican legislators in the state are refusing to play ball and have vacated the grounds of the capitol, denying Democrats a necessary quorum of members to hold a vote on the legislation.
Now, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) has responded to the Republicans’ absence by ordering state police to track down, round up, and forcibly return the missing state senators to the capitol so that a vote can be held on the bill prior to the end of the current legislative session.
Senators gone missing
According to the Associated Press, the proposed legislation in Oregon would place an arbitrary cap on all carbon emissions and auction off “allowances” to businesses and companies to exceed that limit. The cap would be arbitrarily reduced over time, with a goal of reducing carbon emissions by 45% over the benchmark 1990 level by the year 2035, and up to 80% below that level by 2050.
But opponents of the plan argue that it would be devastating to small businesses in the state, particularly in rural areas, as it would inevitably raise the price of fuel and significantly hurt industries like logging and trucking.
Furthermore, state Republicans argue that the proposal should have been a ballot initiative for all voters to decide upon, rather than legislation that the predominately Democratic body could push through with a super-majority — hence, the GOP’s last-ditch effort to simply vacate the capitol to avoid a vote.
Hot on their trail
Oregon state law allows for the state police to track down and forcibly compel the return of wayward legislators that remain within the state. The agency vowed to use “polite communication” and patient diplomacy to achieve that goal.
State law also allows fines of $500 per day to be levied against any absentee senator that prevents a quorum in the Senate, which in this case would be 20 members. Given that Democrats outnumber Republicans 18-12 in the Senate, only two Republicans are necessary to be present for a vote on the cap-and-trade legislation to be official.
Needless to say, Republicans are defiant of the effort to force them to vote on the terrible legislation, and one GOP lawmaker even seemed to suggest that it would require violence to compel his return to the capitol.
“Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” Oregon state Sen. Brian Boquist said on Wednesday of the plan to send police to round up the Republicans. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”
Not the first time
A spokesperson for the Senate Republicans confirmed to the AP that some of the missing lawmakers had actually fled the state in light of the fact that the Oregon state police only have jurisdiction over them within the state’s borders.
However, the state police noted that they had already made contact with some of the missing senators and added that “out of state resources” were being utilized to assist in their efforts, suggesting that law enforcement agencies in neighboring states are cooperating.
This is actually the second time this legislative session in which the Republican minority has staged a walk-out from the capitol to avoid voting on certain legislation. There was a four-day standoff in May over a school funding tax package that only went through after the Democrats agreed to set aside other partisan bills on gun control and mandatory vaccines.
It remains to be seen how long this standoff will last, but given the fact that there still remains other business to attend to prior to the impending end of the legislative session — such as a state budget — Democrats are growing desperate for Republicans to return so that business can resume.