- The Washington Times - Friday, June 28, 2019

The Oregon Senate Republicans returned voluntarily to the state capitol on Saturday, the day before the end of the legislative session, after a weeklong walkout that saw the governor try to bring them back using state troopers.

Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. said at a Friday press conference that most Republicans would end their walkout by arriving for Saturday’s legislative session, allowing the Senate to wrap up unfinished business before the session adjourns at midnight Sunday.

The runaway Republicans exited the state June 20 to stop the Democratic majority from passing a cap-and-trade bill, but Senate Majority Leader Peter Courtney has since said that Democrats lack the votes to approve the ambitious climate measure.

“Our mission of walking out of this building was to kill cap-and-trade,” Mr. Baertshiger told reporters in Salem. “That’s what our constituents said, that’s what our constituents said yesterday, and that’s what we did.”

He said he returned to the state capitol by himself after he received a call from Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, and that she and Senate President Peter Courtney assured him that House Bill 2020 was dead.

“I talked to them. They said they are a no. The bill is dead,” Mr. Baertschiger said.

The state Senate has on its agenda more than 100 bills and resolutions, including the budget bills, but without the 11 Republicans, the Democratic majority was unable to reach the quorum needed to conduct business.

Hundreds of rural Oregonians, including loggers, truckers and farmers, held a protest Thursday at the capitol to support the Republicans, who fled the state and dispersed to avoid capture.

Ms. Brown ordered the Oregon State Police to bring them back to the capital, while Mr. Courtney said the Republicans would be fined $500 per day each for every day that the Senate lacked a quorum, or 20 members.



Mr. Baertschiger said he believed the chamber could finish its business and eliminate the need for a special session, which the governor had prepared to call starting July 2 if the budget bill had not been approved.

“We have a constitutional duty to pass all the budget bills, and I hope that the Senate President brings them first so we can get that done,” he said. “There’s no reason to have a special session. If we have a special session, it is because leadership chose to have a special session.”

For Republicans, the danger of a special session would be giving Democrats an opportunity to resuscitate hotly contested bills on gun control and mandatory vaccines that were killed earlier this year.

Of course, Democrats could renege on their agreement by bringing H.B. 2020 to the floor for a vote once the Republicans are back on the floor, but Mr. Baertschiger said he would refuse to suspend the rules, which he called his “insurance policy.”

“I’m assured that cap and trade is dead,” he said. “However, If somebody wanted to pull it back to the floor, and we had blanket rule suspension, then we would have to take a vote. By not giving a blanket rule suspension and only having two days left in the session, that would not happen.”

Republican state Sen. Kim Thatcher said she planned to be back Saturday in Salem after spending the last week in various places, including Idaho and Washington, but that a couple of senators were further afield and would be unable to return in time.

“We’re headed back tomorrow,” she told the Washington Times. “I just need to make sure we get the budget done. We don’t want to give the governor an excuse to shove us into a special session. It wouldn’t go well.”

Democratic state Sen. Elizabeth Steiner Hayward called on lawmakers to put their differences aside to as the legislative session enters its hectic final 48 hours.

“I hope that everybody, Democrats and Republicans alike, chooses to be on their most professional, civilized behavior over the next couple days, so we can get the people’s work done,” she told the Oregonian.

If passed, H.B. 2020 would have made Oregon the second state, behind California, to pass a cap-and-trade program. The bill was aimed at combating climate change by lowering greenhouse-gas emissions by 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Ms. Brown had said she would sign the bill, while Republicans argued it would devastate the state’s economy.

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