Republican lawmakers in Oregon are in hot water after they refused to partake in a historic vote Thursday to implement a cap-and-trade program to help rein in industrial carbon emissions.
Gov. Kate Brown authorized the state police to round up the 12 Republicans who walked out of the Capitol in protest of the bill and bring them back to the Senate floor for a vote. If passed the measure will make Oregon the second state in the country after California to implement such a program.
"It would have been historic for Oregon, historic for the country, and frankly historic for the world," Brown said at a press conference on Thursday. "Unfortunately Senate Republicans failed to show up and failed to do their jobs."
Republicans fled the Senate, some even claiming to the leave the state, refusing to sign off on a bill that would limit emissions and establish pollution permits or "allowances" for each ton of carbon an industry plans to emit.
“After many hours of well-intentioned, respectful negotiations on Wednesday, the Senate has come to an impasse. The Senate Republicans have decided to abandon their duty to serve their constituents and walk out," Brown said. "The Senate Democrats have requested the assistance of the Oregon State Police to bring back their colleagues to finish the work they committed to push forward for Oregonians. As the executive of the agency, I am authorizing the State Police to fulfill the Senate Democrats’ request.
"It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building. They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do.”
Republican representatives pushed back on the governor's reprimand.
“Protesting cap-and-trade by walking out today represents our constituency and exactly how we should be doing our job,” Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., of Grants Pass, said in a statement Thursday morning. “We have endured threats of arrest, fines and pulling community project funds from the governor, Senate president and majority leader. We will not stand by and be bullied by the majority party any longer."
The Oregon State Police said it's using "established relationships to have polite communication with these senators" in order to get them to resume the state legislative process. That process requires 20 members in the Senate in order to proceed.
"The departure of the senators leaves the Senate without the minimum number of members required to constitute a quorum, so the legislative process has stalled," OSP said Thursday. "While we obviously have many tools at our disposal, patience and communication is and always will be our first, and preferred, option."
"OSP has assisted in resolving a similar situation in the past, and, with the help of diplomats from both sides of the aisle, the department has done so in a peaceful, gentle, and process-supporting way which allowed members of our Legislature to return to work without forfeiting the good relationships essential to moving forward collaboratively and productively."
Oregonian lawmakers aren't the first to flee the state Senate in order to stymie a vote with an insufficient quorum.
In 2011, Democratic lawmakers in Wisconsin did the same to protest Republican Gov. Scott Walker's bill to limit the bargaining power of public unions for wages and benefits. Walker usedf state troopers to bring legislators back to the floor, but not before threatening to send out the National Guard.