• 

Democrats doubling down on cap and trade

 

Oregon’s fifth 35-day off-year legislative session opens the first Monday in February. Well, it’s actually the seventh, if you count the special sessions of 2008 and 2010, before voters authorized a permanent even-year session in a 2010 constitutional amendment.

To further tighten the short session, senators are only allowed to introduce one bill, representatives only two. Other bills can emerge from committees, but the effect is to focus just on proposals capable of garnering support in the building.

There is an argument about whether the focus of the short session should be cleaning up loose ends from the longer odd-year session and enacting relatively minor policy changes, or advancing major policy issues without the clutter of all the other bills clogging the calendar in the longer session.

Guest Writer

Jim Moore holds a B.A. from Stanford University and Ph.D. from Northwestern University. He teaches politics and government at Pacific University in Forest Grove. He also serves as political outreach director with the tom McCall Center for Civic Engagement and political analyst with Portland’s KATU-TV and KXL-Radio outlets. He and his spouse like to spend time traveling Europe to ensure the wine and food remain up to snuff.

The Democratic leadership in the House and Senate advocates the major policy issue approach. So we can expect to see a session dominated by one huge issue, cap and trade, but with other important policy proposals coming before members as well.

Democrats have worked with many interested parties to recraft the failed 2019 cap and trade bill, aiming to gain the one additional vote needed in the Senate.

And as the details begin to take shape, it appears they have been successful. Coastal Democrat Arnie Roblan has indicated he will vote for it.

But as we saw in the 2019 session, cap and trade will invoke fierce opposition. That means Timber Unity will be back, so you can look for protests involving lots of log trucks at the Capitol.

The big question, however, isn’t what outside protesters will do. It’s what Senate Republicans will do.

Cap and trade is one of two issues that spurred the Senate’s GOP caucus to head to Idaho in 2019, denying the Senate a quorum. The walkout wasn’t resolved until the dying days of the session.

Given the time limit of 35 days for this session, it could get tense in the Capitol as Senate Republicans decide what to do. Already, they are complaining that none of their suggestions have been incorporated into the new bill.

Cap and trade has also attracted attention outside Oregon. Environmental groups from across the country are pushing hard to get it passed.

Forces sharing the rural anti-regulatory perspective of Timber Unity, which is now active in several states, are pushing back equally hard. They are determined to block any kind of carbon tax legislation.

The spectacle of Republican walkouts in 2019 brought even more attention to the issue. There are places for compromise, but neither side seems to be ready to make concessions. And if Republicans shut down the Senate again, much of the session’s remaining agenda will simply not get done.

Putting additional pressure on the cap-and-trade process are pending ballot measures that would mandate clean energy throughout the state by 2045.

This is a tactic often used by special interest groups -- pass the bill we want in the Legislature or we’ll go to the voters with a proposal stripped of all vestige of legislative compromise. They use this tactic because it has worked in the past.

Health care will, once again, share a starring role. Look for legislation to cut prescription drug prices by allowing imports from Canada.

The Legislature is also expected to target flavored vaping products, looking to join states and cities across the country in slowing the growth of vaping among young people. Another bill will attempt to fix a tax issue for pharmacies, an issue created with the passage of the corporate activity tax in the 2019 session.

A host of other bills are also in play, some addressing big issues, some addressing pet projects of particular legislators and some just trying to set up proposals for action in the 2021 session.

House Speaker Tina Kotek will propose Oregon declare a state of emergency with regard to homelessness. The declaration would allow the state to direct more money to local shelters.

Senate President Peter Courtney has a bill that follows California’s lead in allowing college athletes to earn money from the sale of their name, image or likeness.

Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Keizer Republican, will submit a bill to put an end to the short sessions themselves. It would direct submission of a constitutional amendment to voters.

In her view, under Democratic leadership, the even-year sessions have strayed from the original intent of limiting action to minor policy decisions and budget adjustments.

Sen. Ginny Burdick, a Portland Democrat, will present her perennial proposals to tighten Oregon’s gun laws. But campaign finance reform will apparently remain on hold, pending November balloting on a proposed constitutional amendment.

The context of these election-year sessions is also, oddly enough, looming elections.

By law, the session must end by Monday, March 9. And the filing deadline for this year’s May primary follows on Tuesday, March 10. Thus, some legislators carefully calibrate their votes in order to dampen the prospects of a successful primary challenge.

This time, there is a special dynamic in play. More than one-quarter of the seats up for election in the Legislature will not feature an incumbent.

That not only injects a note of uncertainty in the election process, but also in the legislative process. That’s because all those retiring lawmakers may feel free to vote in different ways than they have in the past.

In the short session of 2018, the dominant issues were sexual harassment in the halls of the Capitol; Knute Buehler proposing ideas that had no chance of passage, but served to lay the foundation for his campaign for governor; and a political meltdown over abuses in the state’s foster care system.

Two years later, the issues that matters most are cap and trade and the political tactics Senate Republicans embrace to block cap and trade. Everything else is secondary.

Watch cap and trade. Whatever happens to it will determine how this short session is viewed in the years to come.

Comments

gregtompkins

Sweet rent and gas to skyrocket and everyone will be unemployed!

RobsNewsRegister

Between the new billion dollar a year corporate activity tax of 2019 and the gas taxes they passed, if they get the new cap-n-trade taxes the state will be hauling in some serious new money paid for by the people. To shore up... you guessed it... PERS. The same is going on all over the country with states with unfunded pension obligations.

This is why negotiations between public employee unions and politicians are a farce. The politicians know they will be long gone when the bill finally comes due so only one side really has skin in the game when these actuarially unsound contracts are signed.

Don Dix

For over 30 years, the Oregon government, under the dominance of the Ds, has been nothing more than a money grab by any means necessary. Cap and trade is simply more of the same old sh*t!

Finch

I now call it Munchausen by Democrats -- they tear down our country and then campaign to fix everything with magical and imaginary money.

RobsNewsRegister

And now Gov. Brown wants a new real estate transfer tax (does this also hit when land passes down in a family after someone passes and is why it isn't called a sales tax?). Gotta love the circular reasoning. Make it insanely expensive to build a new house (taxes, fees, regs, ect..) and then push for a tax to help fund... low cost housing.

https://www.columbian.com/news/2020/jan/29/oregon-gov-kate-brown-wants-to-ask-voters-to-approve-affordable-housing-tax/

gophergrabber

This cap and trade deal makes most sensible Oregonians throw up. If you really want to stop global warming (which you can't do) go to China and start there.

Finch

Extortionists at every turn! Peter and Paul . . . on and on, never stops.