SALEM — Gov. Kate Brown said she would call a special session of the Legislature early next month and might use state police to round up absent lawmakers if Senate Republicans make good on a threat of a mass walkout over pending carbon cap legislation.
“I’m disappointed in the Senate Republicans’ indications of a walkout, which would silence their constituents while stifling democracy,” Brown said in a statement Wednesday. “It’s not only dishonest, it violates the oaths they took to speak for their constituents, as well as the word they gave to their colleagues and to me.”
Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, promised GOP lawmakers would take action to block House Bill 2020, the carbon cap passed by the House after a six-hour debate Monday. A vote in the Senate is scheduled for Thursday.
“Walking out is part of the conversation because the governor is not willing to move on her position on the bill,” Baertschiger said Wednesday.
“She is only representing Portland and the environmental community, not rural Oregonians. Oregon is a dictatorship. Not by one person, but one party.”
Democrats hold an 18-12 majority in the Senate, but at least 20 senators must be present to make a quorum. GOP lawmakers walked out earlier this session in opposition to Brown’s signature initiative for 2019 — a $2 billion business tax package that would go for K-12 education.
Brown wouldn’t budge on the tax but brokered a deal in which Democrats killed bills on mandatory vaccinations and gun control, which were opposed by many Republicans. In return, Republicans pledged to return to the Senate and not to use tactics to slow or stop legislation. The tax for education was approved soon after.
Brown said Wednesday the latest threats of a GOP Senate walkout would bring a much different response.
“I am prepared to use all resources and tools available to me as governor to ensure that Oregonians are being served by their leaders,” Brown said.
The state constitution requires the Legislature adjourn June 30. But Brown said she was ready to call an immediate special session July 2 if necessary. She also said she was in communication with the state police, who under law can be deployed to compel absent lawmakers to return to the Capitol.
“We will stay in Salem to work until our job is done,” Brown said.
Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, gave an angry response to the possibility of troopers being sent to track him down. During a Wednesday debate on the Senate floor, he pointedly told Sen. President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, he was ready to walk out.
“If you don’t think these boots are for walking, you’re flat wrong, Mr. President,” Boquist said. “And if you send the state police to get me, hell is coming to visit you personally.”
Boquist, an Army special forces veteran, seemed to up the ante in comments to Portland television station KGW, later posted on social media.
“Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” Boquist said. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon.”
Any walkout would likely trigger a move by Democrats to resurrect the gun control and vaccination bills dealt away in the earlier compromise.
During the first walkout, Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, was the only GOP senator to regularly appear on the Senate floor. He said late Tuesday he was considering his next steps in the current conflict.
“I’m working to come up with a solution that treats the people I represent fairly,” Knopp said. “All options to achieve that outcome are on the table.”
The majority Democrats have argued that HB 2020 is needed for Oregon to significantly reduce carbon pollution and accelerate the growth of the economy toward a more green and clean future.
“The climate crisis is a constant threat to our way of life, a threat that would make the planet, as we know it, uninhabitable,” said Rep. Karin Power, D-Milwaukie.
Knopp and other opponents say the bill would raise consumer energy costs and hurt jobs in rural areas.
“The current carbon tax will increase gas taxes by about 20 cents a gallon and substantially raise home heating prices for natural gas,” Knopp said.
Brown has used political muscle in the past to punish deal breakers. At the end of the 2017 session, Brown issued a line-item veto for three projects in the district of then-Rep. Sal Esquivel, R-Medford.
House Democrats at the time did not have a supermajority and needed Esquivel’s vote on a health care provider tax to fund low-income medical care. Esquivel cast the key “yes” vote, then quickly became a chief petitioner of a referendum drive to overturn the tax.
In announcing the vetoes, Brown confirmed Esquivel’s maneuvering was a factor.
“The cornerstone of all negotiations, whether they occur in a public or private arena, is the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing,” Brown said.
— Reporter: 541-640-2750, firstname.lastname@example.org