Supporters of House Bill 2020, including members of the Douglas County Global Warming Coalition, canceled a planned rally in Salem on Tuesday citing safety concerns. But opponents of the bill planned to drive their trucks to the Capitol on Thursday for a rally of their own.
Meanwhile, State Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, said Tuesday that he and other Republican senators would remain out of state, even though Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney signaled Tuesday that the Democrats don’t have the votes to pass the bill. The Republicans don’t trust Courtney’s motives and fear that if they return, they’ll find the bill still very much alive.
All 11 Republican senators walked out last week in order to block the Senate from having the quorum necessary for a vote to be taken. They all left the state because the governor dispatched Oregon State Police to bring them back to the Capitol.
The issue at stake is a bill designed to reduce the state’s greenhouse gases to 45 percent below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80 percent below 1990 levels by 2050. HB 2020 would have accomplished that through a cap and trade plan that would cap greenhouse emissions for the state’s biggest polluters. That would allow them to buy credits that would pay for transportation projects, renewable energy investments and payments to low-income drivers impacted by the anticipated increased fuel costs. It passed the House on a 36-24 vote June 17, but stalled out in the Senate after the walkout.
Speaking for himself, Douglas County Global Warming Coalition Facilitator Stuart Liebowitz said threatening statements led to the cancellation of the pro-HB 2020 rally. He said none of those threats were received locally. Threats from militia groups against Democratic leaders also led to a shutdown at the legislature last week.
Liebowitz said the bill is what the majority wants, and it was derailed by what he called antidemocratic actions. He particularly decried the statement of Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, who commented from exile last week that state police should send bachelors and come heavily armed if they came after him, and also statements made by Heard, who had accused the Democrats of tyranny. Comments like those Liebowitz said, fanned the flames of hatred.
“We have sent the message to everybody around the country that if lying and bullying tactics and threats of violence can work here, it can actually work anywhere,” Liebowitz said.
Heard said Tuesday he spoke of tyranny because it’s what he’s experienced with the majority leadership at the Capitol. He said the majority has too much power and it’s dismissive of the minority. Rural Oregonians, he said, would be hurt by HB 2020.
He wouldn’t directly comment about Boquist’s statement, saying he doesn’t feel qualified because Boquist is a veteran and he is not. He said he took them to be words about self-defense. However, he said he abhors language that’s vulgar, aggressive or threatening.
“That is not how we as free people in America should ever seek to change the political winds that we are standing against,” he said. “Our mission as Americans and Oregonians, no matter which side of the aisle you find yourself on, should always be to seek to extend the hand of friendship as good neighbors and brothers and sisters to persuade our brother and sister to think the way that we think.
“But to be hateful or aggressive in a physical manner, it’s not the way to do things if you want to make this state and this country a better place.”
Heard said he plans to stay put, for now, in an undisclosed location in another state, until he’s sure the bill is dead. He said the statement that there aren’t enough votes to pass the bill has been made before.
“We unfortunately are in a place in our state where we don’t feel we can trust the majority party to actually be honest in what they say they are going to do and not going to do,” he said.
Heard’s younger brother, Kalvin Heard, is organizing the anti-HB 2020 rally planned for Thursday. Kalvin Heard lives in Roseburg and owns Heard Excavation Inc. He said he doesn’t usually get involved politically, but was motivated by concerns for his own small business and for his brother.
“What motivated me the most was hearing that my brother was going to have to run out of the state to try to fend for our right to be able to do business in this state,” he said.
Kalvin Heard said he’s very concerned about the impact of potential increased fuel prices and job losses due to overall increases in transportation costs. He said a lot of people who work in agriculture and the timber industry, along with other industries, are expected to join the rally.
Liebowitz said HB 2020 was carefully drafted with input from Republicans, contrary to Republican assertions that it was rushed or that they were left out of the process.
He said the bill incorporated Republican concerns, including a provision from Rep. David Brock Smith, R-Port Orford, that would have allocated $100 million in rebates for low- and middle-income drivers to offset possible increases in fuel costs.
He said the concern over fuel costs is overblown since a study showed that HB 2020 would only increase fuel costs about 20 cents a gallon. Ironically, he said, over the course of the discussion around the bill, the cost of gas increased by 50 cents a gallon. With gasoline prices, he said, wild fluctuations are common.
He also disagreed with opponents who’ve suggested that Oregon, which would have become the second state after California to enact similar legislation, should avoid action because its contribution to overall global warming is minimal. He said if everyone does that, the world will wind up with a climate catastrophe.
“Ultimately all of our shares matter because the planet’s future is at stake,” Liebowitz said.