Oregon senators face $500 fines for fleeing, threaten to sue

Updated 4 p.m. 6/21.

Of The Associated Press

SALEM — Republican state senators in Oregon continued to engage in a high-stakes game of brinksmanship Friday with Democratic lawmakers, saying they are prepared to sue if the Senate president goes through with a threat to impose a $500 fine for each day they delay a vote on a landmark climate plan.

“We will file legal action,” said Sen. Tim Knopp, a Republican from Bend who has said he has been in three states in the past three days. “If they were trying to bring us back, threatening to arrest us and impose fines isn't going to work.”

Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick pushed back, saying Republicans have no legal course as the fine is explicitly written in statute. A GoFundMe to cover the rogue lawmakers' expenses and fines raised nearly $30,000 in less than a day. State ethics laws prohibit officials from receiving gifts exceeding $50, so it's unclear whether senators could access the money.

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown deployed the state police Thursday to try to round up 11 Republican senators who fled the Legislature — and in some cases, the state — to thwart the passage of a cap-and-trade proposal that would dramatically lower greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. The minority GOP caucus wants the plan to be sent to voters instead of being instituted by lawmakers — but negotiations with Democrats collapsed, leading to the headline-grabbing walkout.

But none of the GOP senators appeared Friday.

State Police can force any senators they track down in Oregon into a patrol car to return them to the Capitol, although the agency said in a statement that it would use “polite communication” and patience to bring the rogue lawmakers back. Knopp confirmed that he was contacted by the state police, but he said he declined the superintendent's request to return back to the statehouse.

The GOP senators will be fined $500 a day per person if enough of them remain absent to prevent a vote. Democrats have an 18 to 12 majority in the chamber, but need 20 members present for a quorum. One GOP senator recently died and has not yet been replaced.

The state police don't have jurisdiction outside Oregon. But the Oregon State Police confirmed Thursday evening it was working with out of state agencies to track the Republicans down.

Under the proposed cap-and-trade bill, Oregon would put an overall limit on greenhouse gas emissions and auction off pollution “allowances” for each ton of carbon industries plan to emit. The legislation would lower that cap over time to encourage businesses to move away from fossil fuels: The state would reduce emissions to 45% below 1990 levels by 2035 and 80% below 1990 levels by 2050.

Those opposed to the cap-and-trade plan say it would exacerbate a growing divide between the liberal, urban parts of the state and the rural areas. The plan would increase the cost of fuel, damaging small business, truckers and the logging industry, they say.

Democrats say the measure is an efficient way to lower emissions while investing in low-income and rural communities’ ability to adapt to climate change. It has the support of environmental groups, farmworkers and some trade unions.

California has had for a decade an economy-wide cap and trade policy like the one Oregon is considering. Nine northeastern states have more limited cap-and-trade programs that target only the power sector.

Republicans aren't just holding up a climate plan, but a significant portion of the state budget including funding for the state's health care, foster care and higher education agencies.

“If we don't get that passed, we're going to see some real disruption in the services that people depend on,” said Burdick, a Democrat Portland.

The Legislature this week approved a continuing resolution to prevent those agencies from shutting down, funding them at current service levels in the event a budget isn't approved by June 30, the constitutional end of session.

Knopp said Republicans would be willing to return to the statehouse to solely vote on budget bills.

“We would come back if that's what Democrats want to vote on,” he said. “At this time, that hasn't been offered. As far as I'm concerned, the Democrats are responsible for this impasse.”

Burdick said it's not Republicans’ “job to dictate what we can pass and what we can't pass.”

“They're responsible for being here,” she said.

The walkout also puts other major Democratic priorities on hold, including affordable housing, tobacco taxes and paid family leave. Legislation addressing these topics sailed through the House Thursday, but their fate remains uncertain with the Senate shutdown.

This is the second time in this legislative session that minority GOP lawmakers have used a walkout as a way to slow the process. Democrats have a rare supermajority in the House and Senate, meaning Republicans don't have many ways to influence the debate.

Oregon House Democrats once fled the capitol to the Warms Springs Reservation in 2001 over a redistricting proposal. At the time, Brown, then-Senate President, called the walkout “appropriate under the circumstances.”

As governor, she convinced Republicans to end a May walkout over an education funding tax package in exchange for tabling legislation on gun control and vaccine requirements. Part of that deal was that conservatives would not walk out again.

This time around, the governor said she's pursuing more direct action against Republicans because she felt that they backslid on “the word they gave to their colleagues and to me.”




Why doesn’t the stupid governor put a cap on illegals coming in and trade them in for money?


And the State of California is in such great shape economically or ecologically? Being a NATIVE OREGONIAN...Comparing Oregon and striving for it to be more like California is just scary to think about. The State of CA is basically bankrupt. Do we want to follow that model???


"The State of CA is basically bankrupt."

Sorry? They are projecting a $21 billion surplus in the current. And the biggest political debate is over how they are going to spend the money.

I'm certainly not arguing for Oregon to be more like anywhere else. Nor can I understand what California's budget has to do with Oregon's climate control legislation. But I think it would help to start off working from actual true facts. Is it really so hard to come up with something bad to say about California? I don't think so.


How should one respond to vitriolic comments? I wish I knew. I suspect that anything I might say would be ignored. Ignorance is bliss, I guess.


Bufordthe1st, California is the most poverty ridden and high crime state in the country. They worship the government as their religion and to say anything against progressivism is blasphemy. And they claim to be so environmentally friendly but yet they want hordes and hordes of third world types to flood in. And then they whine and moan when their cost of living is too high so they infect into another state and ruin it in a similar fashion. Progressivism is a cancer and needs to die.


Why are the democrats afraid to let the citizens of Oregon vote on it?


"California is the most poverty ridden and high crime state in the country."

This also isn't true. Why do this? What is the point here? These facts and rankings are easily confirmed.

I really love the News Register. And I think the reader comments feature has great potential to add a lot to the reporting. I think we see that from time to time. But these kinds of pointless diversions are barely worthy of being called trolling.
Very disappointing.


Treehouse are you from California?




To Treehouse and other Californians : https://www.forbes.com/sites/michaelshellenberger/2018/05/31/number-one-in-poverty-california-isnt-our-most-progressive-state-its-our-most-racist-one/#1d6ba29f5cd9


I really think we are headed for a “civil war” between the tyranny of progressivism and conservative folks. And it will start right here in Oregon.


gregtompkins. Talk of 'civil war'. Such happy talk. Do you really mean 'war'? Have you been in war? Vietnam? Afghanistan? Iraqi? Are you suggesting Americans take up arms against fellow Americans? If so. Then shame on you.


On Lord let rain brain it's highly needed.


I can tell you that California does not have a surplus. They have the same problem we do called an unfunded liability named PERS and the stupid bullet train to nowhere.


Oh man, that governor Brown has got to go before she destroy's this beautiful state of ours. Recall, recall, recall!!!

Don Dix

The cap and trade bill will not effect anything about Oregon's climate -- but the emissions permit market will create a new revenue stream for the state government (estimated @ $550M the first year). This 'new revenue' will originate at the same place the 'old revenue' comes from -- the taxpayers/businesses (read cost of living increase).

Oregon's D controlled state government has never been about anything but more money (to waste on frivolous ideas and appease the growing PERS liability).

The Ds also want to pass the bill with an emergency clause, which would disallow a voter referendum on all or any part of the bill. Is that the definition of a 'representative government, or an oligarchy?

If this bill is so critical and highly supported, why not put it to the vote of the people? -- probably because the Ds know it would fail miserably!


I am not sure I can think of a more expensive way to have less climate impact for Oregonians than a cap-and-trade program in a non-industrial state. It will create a huge and expensive bureaucracy that will force regulatory commercial consolidation forcing out small business. It would be far more efficient to just add on a fuel tax (estimates are this bill will cause a 22 cent increase right off the bat) and electric surcharge. The collection mechanisms are already in place. This is not happening because the purpose of the expenditures may then be constrained (e.g. fuel tax for highways). It's unconstrained spending by design and will most likely be used to shore up the mathematically unsustainable pension program. Why not leverage the state's strengths? Plant trees to soak up the CO2.


To get it out of committee in the first place the Senate Democratic president removed a conservative leaning Democrat (Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose) from the committee who was going to vote no with one who voted yes, she was then put back on the committee. I fully support what the Republicans are doing - the Dems played dirty getting this debacle to the floor in the first place.


So..the Dems are learning from Reps tactics in DC ?

Don Dix

Brown's view -- if the Ds walkout, that's 'appropriate' (2001). If the Rs walk, 'they need to return and do the job they were elected to do' (2019). And Brown wants the Rs to cooperate with her agenda, funny!

But possibly even more troubling is Ginny Burdick's comments -- Burdick said it's not Republicans’ “job to dictate what we can pass and what we can't pass.”

“They're responsible for being here,” she said.

Would that mean Burdick thinks the Rs should just roll over and take it without any resistance? It seems someone completely forgot about the pesky quorum requirement.


I don’t think Kate Brown took into account that this state is very conservative except for three county’s that have massive population. The push back she is receiving is well deserved. You can’t take bills that are her personal agenda and shove them down our throats. This state was built on logging and agricultural and no matter how many liberals move here to try and ruin our homes we will fight it to the end. I am so proud of our Republican Senators. #Timberunity stands tall and strong.


The Hose and Senate have a Dem super Majority. If the vast majority of the voters in the state did not support them that would not be the case. It all just republican whining. Move to Alabama if you're so upset. Introduce your kids to Roy Moore when you get there.


wow madmacs so much hate! You know I am a multigenerational Oregonian and I have heard so much lately from recently arrived Bay Area leftists “ why don’t you move if you don’t like our leftist agenda?” Why should I move just because I don’t conform to the agenda? The way the leftists are forcing their agenda on new “ subjects “ there will be a reaction akin to civil rights uprisings in the 1960’s. I think we are close to that in Oregon. Inclusivity and environmental worship is becoming its own religion a religion that people don’t want to be force fed.


Jim said it best

Don Dix

Most significant Oregon legislative walkouts:

2019 & 2007 -- Senate Rs
2001 -- House Ds (including Kate Brown)
1995 -- Senate Ds
1971 -- House and Senate Ds

There may be more, but it's clear both parties have used the walkout to thwart the opposition. As for 'who learned from who', that is most likely a partisan-based answer.


Maybe they could walk out and just keep going.

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