Friday, June 21, 2019

Rural Republicans flee Oregon legislature to block climate-change bill; governor orders police to round them up

Republican state senators fled Oregon on Thursday to prevent the Legislative Assembly's Democratic supermajority from passing a climate-change bill they fear would hurt rural constituents. UPDATE, June 22: "Oregon’s top lawmakers will shut down the state capitol after receiving threats from militia groups, who authorities say are planning to demonstrate there in support of the 11 Republican senators," The Washington Post reports.

The move was "last-ditch political arithmetic: no senators, no votes. Without their 11 GOP colleagues, Senate Democrats can’t achieve a quorum, and their legislative agenda grinds to a halt. So the Republicans fled. They left the state, reportedly bolting over the Idaho line," Reis Thebault reports for the Post. "Oregon Republicans said a boycott was the only way they could advocate for the people that voted them into office. They spoke of a deepening divide between the state’s ultra-liberal urban enclaves and its sprawling rural counties with proud libertarian streaks."

It's the second time this session Republicans have walked out to prevent a vote, but Democrats were able to bring them back the first time with promises of compromise. This time, Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat, told state troopers to track down and bring back errant lawmakers, Thebault reports. Sen. Brian Boquist, a Republican, told the superintendent of the state police: "Send bachelors and come heavily armed . . . I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple."

The bill they opposed aims to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions by establishing a cap-and-trade system for carbon emissions. Businesses that emit carbon would have to buy pollution credits, and the state would gradually decrease the number of available credits. But Senate Republicans say the bill will have a "disproportionate and detrimental effect" on rural areas, since the industry would probably pass the extra costs onto commuters and other consumers, increasing the price of fuel and putting an undue burden on industries like trucking and logging, Thebault reports.

The Republican senators still have not returned. State Democrats are vowing to fine each one $500 a day, Dirk VanderHart reports for Oregon Public Radio.

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