For the second time in eight months, state Sen. Dallas Heard, R-Winston, was planning to head toward the state border Monday afternoon as Republican senators staged a walkout over proposed carbon cap-and-trade legislation.
Just which state border Heard was headed toward he wouldn’t say.
Heard and other Republican senators were angered by Democratic leadership they say broke the rules in an effort to force Senate Bill 1530 through the Joint Ways and Means Committee Monday morning.
Heard said Senate President Peter Courtney inserted himself as a new voting member of the committee — a move that rescued the bill from dying there.
The committee is made up of both House and Senate members, and each must have a majority of its representatives approve the bill to move it forward.
But with Democrat Betsy Johnson of Scappoose prepared to side with the Republicans, the bill would have faltered on a 6-6 tie on the Senate side. Then, Heard said, Courtney added himself as a voting member to ensure the votes the Democrats needed.
Heard lodged an unsuccessful objection to Courtney’s move Monday morning. Legislative staff members said Courtney could join the committee, but Heard said the staff members were under the control of Courtney and the Democrats.
The committee voted in favor of the bill. With that, Republicans decided it was time to make good on threats to walk out.
Heard said what happened in Monday’s committee meeting was “a complete abomination.”
“I’ve had lots of days where I was just disgusted by what the Democrats do,” Heard said in a Monday afternoon interview. “They really outdid themselves today.”
Heard and other Republicans believe the cap and trade bill will spell economic disaster for rural Oregonians. Last June, they walked out on a similar bill and successfully blocked its passage. By walking out, they deprive the Senate of the quorum necessary to take votes on any legislation.
This time around, they’ve argued the Legislature should put the proposal on a ballot measure and let the voters decide.
Gov. Kate Brown told OPB she was disappointed Republicans walked out again Monday. She said they’d chosen to “take a taxpayer-funded vacation,” and said the Republicans “are not against climate policy, they are against the democratic process.”
In a written statement, House Speaker Tina Kotek said Monday afternoon the walkout is “a crisis for our democracy.”
“This is not a game. Voters elected us to do our job. The members who refuse to show up and do their jobs are saying to a large majority of Oregonians: your vote doesn’t matter,” Kotek said.
While it’s the Republicans walking out, Heard said the Democrats are the aggressors in this fight.
“What they are doing is making our lives so expensive as customers and consumers and so unaffordable or so noncompetitive, I should say, from an industry standpoint that we won’t be able to afford to continue to live in the place we call home,” he said.
“Well that’s the aggressor. I’m not the aggressor here. I’m not trying to do anything to anyone. I just want to be left alone, but that’s not good enough for these people,” he said.
It’s not clear whether the Republicans will return to the session at all this year. If they don’t, some budget adjustments and technical fix policy bills that had not yet been put to the full Senate will not get passed. If not, Heard made it clear he thinks the Democrats will be to blame. He said they held the bills hostage in hopes of keeping weaker Republicans from leaving.
If that was the plan, it appears to have been unsuccessful. Only one Republican senator was present in Monday’s Senate floor session, according to OPB — Sen. Tim Knopp of Bend. One more would have to return to make the 20-member quorum.