The 2019 session of the Oregon Legislature was a doozy. With supermajorities in each house, Democrats didn’t have to worry about passing most tax bills, which they did with abandon.
Republicans stewed until those in the Senate found a way to force their Democratic counterparts to the bargaining table. They picked up their papers and left the Senate, once in early May and again in late June. By doing so, they shut down the Senate by denying a quorum.
Senate President Peter Courtney says for the short 2020 legislative session he wants a bill that would cap and trade carbon emissions to “be ready to go on day one. It’s got to come out of the Senate in five seconds.”
It’s a nice dream. But it presumes Democrats and Republicans can reach a deal. The second walkout by Senate Republicans was caused precisely because they could not. Even some Democrats didn’t support the bill.
There are dangers for both parties if their only communication is shouting at one another across a crowded Senate floor. The last thing Oregon needs is a Legislature as dysfunctional as Congress has become.
Democrats should remember they don’t represent everyone. They picked up only a single seat in the Senate in the 2018 election. While they’ve been the majority party there for the last decade, their edge has fluctuated. Were they to lose the single seat they gained in 2018, their voting supermajority would be gone.
As for Republicans, they have received considerable flak for the walkouts. Legislating by walkout may cause some voters to walk away.
The best starting point for a new cap and trade bill is to stipulate that any revenue raised by it to be returned directly to Oregonians. House Bill 2020, the cap and trade bill that died, gave the money to the government to redistribute. Oregon government has a terrible track record when it comes to government programs designed to compel Oregonians to go green. A new carbon bill will be a lot more ready to go if it’s ready to return the revenue raised to Oregonians.