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GOP senators flee Oregon to stop climate bill after governor warns she’ll call police

A standoff in which GOP senators fled to keep the Oregon State Senate from reaching a quorum ended in early May, but Republican senators again fled the state Thursday to block a vote on a climate bill.
A standoff in which GOP senators fled to keep the Oregon State Senate from reaching a quorum ended in early May, but Republican senators again fled the state Thursday to block a vote on a climate bill. The Associated Press

Republicans in the Oregon State Senate fled the state Thursday to block a vote on a climate bill, The Oregonian reported.

“In a few moments, I will not be in Oregon,” said Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, early Thursday, according to the publication.

The Oregon House of Representatives passed the carbon-reduction bill Monday and Republican state senators had been negotiating with Gov. Kate Brown and Democratic legislators, The Statesman-Journal reported.

Brown vowed Wednesday to send state police to round up GOP legislators if they carried out threats to block the bill with a walkout, Willamette Week reported. She also said she’d call a special session July 2 to take up the bill.

“I’m disappointed in the Senate Republicans’ indications of a walkout, which would silence their constituents while stifling democracy,” Brown said, according to the publication. “People place their lives on the line to protect our democracy, and it’s a slap in the face of those sacrifices for the Senate Republicans to turn their back on respectful dialogue just because they don’t agree with others in the conversation.”

Democrats control the Oregon senate, but Republicans have enough seats to prevent a quorum from being reached, bringing the chamber’s business to a halt, The Oregonian reported. The legislative session ends June 30.

On Thursday, Brown ordered state police to find the missing 11 Republican lawmakers, The Oregonian reported.

“I do not believe the state police will be able to find any of our members,” said Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, on Thursday, NPR reported. “So, instead of the Democrats putting efforts into finding bipartisan solutions, their answer is to waste state police resources to try and track down legislators and arrest them. It sounds more like a dictatorship than a democracy.”

Republicans had been negotiating on the climate bill, which they argue will harm the state’s economy, until late Wednesday night, The Statesman-Journal reported.

Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, accused Brown and Oregon Democrats of creating a one-party “dictatorship,” according to the publication.

“All we want is for the people of Oregon to vote on this horrible bill,” Baertschiger said, Willamette Weekly reported. “Walking out is part of the conversation because the Governor is not willing to move on her position on the bill, and she is only representing Portland and the environmental community, not rural Oregonians.”

State Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, accused Democrats on Wednesday of staging a “political coup,” The Statesman-Journal reported.

“And if you send the state police to get me, hell is coming to visit you personally,” Boquist warned, according to the publication.

In May, Republicans stayed out of Oregon State Senate chambers for nearly a week until Democrats killed bills on vaccination and gun control, The Oregonian reported.

In 2003, Texas Democrats fled to Oklahoma to try to shut down a redistricting bill, CNN reported. The legislation ultimately passed, however.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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