SALEM — Who will blink? What if no one blinks?
Those were the questions of the day Monday in the Capitol as a stalemate over a carbon cap bill threatened to last past Sunday’s deadline for the Legislature to adjourn.
The legislative crisis began Thursday when all 11 Senate Republicans failed to appear for a vote on House Bill 2020, the carbon cap legislation expected to pass and go to Gov. Kate Brown for her signature.
The move had the Republicans’ desired effect. Their absences left the Senate without a quorum to do any business. The senators have remained out of Salem — and in many cases, out of state. HB 2020 is in limbo, but without the Senate, the impasse has crippled nearly all lawmaking in the Legislature.
With time running down, Democrats and Republicans on Monday agreed there is no agreement.
“Nothing new,” said Kate Kondayen, deputy communications director for Brown.
Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, concurred.
“Despite the onslaught of rumors, as of today, no deal with the Democrats has been made,” Baertschiger said in a statement released by his Salem office.
The senator said earlier he had left Oregon to avoid state authorities seeking his return to the Capitol. Among the absent lawmakers is Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, who also says he is out of state. He was unavailable for comment Monday.
Without a resolution, the Sunday deadline in the state constitution will terminate the 2019 session, killing House Bill 2020. But the collateral damage would be the death of dozens of other pending bills dealing with everything from paid family medical leave to honoring American prisoners of war and those missing in action.
The Senate held a quorum call at 10 a.m. Monday with the same result since Thursday: 18 Democrats present, 11 Republicans absent. Two members short of the 20 needed to do business.
“Absent a quorum, the Senate will stand in recess until 5 p.m.,” said Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. The evening quorum call produced the same result.
The House is meeting and passing bills into an uncertain fate. Senate bills now winning House approval will go to the governor to become law. Among them could be Senate Bill 998, up for a House vote Tuesday, which allows bicycle riders to roll past a stop sign if there is no traffic.
The fate of others was far less hopeful. House bills that are passed go to the Senate for consideration. As of Monday afternoon, the backlog had surpassed 100 bills. All will die Sunday without Senate action. The list is expected to grow further. HB 3452, which would name the portion of U.S. Highway 26 in Oregon as the “POW/MIA Memorial Highway,” is on the House agenda Tuesday. Rep. Jack Zika, R-Redmond, is the chief co-sponsor.
Former Army Lt. Col. Dick Tobiason, of Bend, worked to get the idea before the Legislature. He said he will be disappointed if the bill languishes in the Senate but will bring the idea up the next time the Legislature meets, if necessary.
“I guess the chance of it becoming law are pretty slim,” Tobiason said. “I think it would have passed the Senate. I know Tim Knopp, and I know he would be for it. I guess we will just have to start over again — maybe earlier this time.”
The same possible demise is shared with other bills sitting in the Senate. A bill to allow duplexes in single-family zoned neighborhoods, a possible cigarette tax, and changes in state death penalty law all await Senate action.
The deadlock will have a direct impact on Bend. HB 3450, sponsored by Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, would allow Bend to redevelop old commercial strips on Third Street into shops with apartments built above. It awaits a Senate vote. It was approved 56-1 in the House last week and was expected to sail through the Senate.
A breakthrough on the impasse is still possible. Even with limited time left, the Legislature could suspend its rules to rapidly move the pending legislation through both chambers and onto the governor’s desk in a few days.
If there is no resolution, the current session would end Sunday and all bills still in the House and Senate would expire.
Brown has said that if the Legislature adjourns without a Senate vote on HB 2020, she will call for a special session of the Legislature to begin July 2. All legislation would have to start over as new bills, which would have to again go through public hearings and committee votes on amendments.
Senate Republicans have said they may not attend a special session if it includes a carbon cap bill.
— Reporter: 541-640-2750, email@example.com