July 20 2019
Oregon's Republican state senators agreed to return to the Capitol Friday, after a week on the run to stop Democrats from passing a landmark climate bill.
Democrats said earlier this week that the climate bill, which would have established a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions, didn't have the votes necessary to pass.
Speaking at a press conference in the Capitol Friday, Senate Republican leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. said his members would return to Salem in time for the 9 a.m. legislative session on Saturday.
"Our mission of walking out of this building was to kill cap-and-trade," he said. "I'm proud of this caucus."
Senators will have a sprint to finish their work this weekend, with the legislative session scheduled to end Sunday at midnight. There are more than 100 pending bills and resolutions that need Senate approval in that time, including state budget bills. Any bill not approved by Sunday night will be dead.
Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, a Democrat, said bills on paid family leave and a tobacco tax to fund public health were also priorities, in addition to the budget. She said the cap-and-trade bill was one vote short of the 16 it needed to pass.
"They were basically gone for no good reason," she said of the Republican senators.
All 11 Republicans in the Oregon Senate walked out of the capitol last week, after negotiations with Democrats over the climate bill broke down Wednesday night. Without at least two Republicans present, the Senate didn't have a quorum and couldn't vote on any bills.
Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, sent the state police to find them and bring them back. But most Republicans left the state, with many fleeing to Idaho, where the Oregon State Police have no jurisdiction. Even so, some hid out in remote areas or bought burner phones to avoid being found.
The governor also threatened to call a special session, set to begin July 2, if the Republicans didn't return by the end of the month. Oregon was hoping to be the second state to pass an economywide cap-and-trade law; California adopted a similar law in 2016.
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Photo: A group including three Democratic senators stand among the empty desks of Republican senators during a Senate floor session at the Oregon State Capitol on May 7. PHOTO: CONNOR RADNOVICH/ASSOCIATED PRESS