Oregon state Senators on the run. Again

Faced with the prospect of a carbon cap and trade scheme being passed in the upper chamber, Republicans in the Oregon state Senate have fled the capital (and the state in at least some cases) to deny the Democratic majority a quorum needed to hold a vote. This has prompted Governor Kate Brown to dispatch the State Police to hunt them down and, if necessary, to physically drag them back to Salem. And believe it or not, this isn’t even the first time it’s happened during this session. (LA Times)

Oregon Gov. Kate Brown has deployed the state police to try to round up Republican lawmakers who fled the Capitol to block a vote on a landmark economy-wide climate plan that would be the second of its kind in the nation.

Minority Republicans want the cap-and-trade proposal, which is aimed at dramatically lowering the state’s greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, to be sent to voters instead of being instituted by lawmakers — but negotiations with Democrats collapsed, leading to the walkout, Kate Gillem, a spokeswoman for Senate Republicans said Thursday.

Oregon State Police can force any senators they track down in the state 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.

The Republican opposition to the bill is understandable. It’s yet another ruinous Democratic scheme to place unrealistic carbon emission caps on businesses, forcing them to buy “pollution credits” if they can’t meet the unrealistic goals. The effect this would have on small businesses, particularly those working in logging or other operations requiring trucks and other vehicles is obvious. These so-called cap and trade schemes are a way to soak money out of the system to force compliance, similar to what the EPA does on a national level through the Renewable Fuel Standard to mandate ethanol use.

The GOP in the state Senate wanted to put the measure to a referendum and let the voters decide. But likely knowing the public wouldn’t support it, Democrats opposed that plan and negotiations collapsed, leading to the flight of the Republicans. At least some of them have crossed the border into Idaho where State Police lack jurisdiction to pursue them.

But as bad as the cap and trade scheme is, this flight to avoid their jobs isn’t something we should support. You’ll recall that back in 2003, Texas Democrats fled the Lone Star State and holed up at a motel in Oklahoma to prevent the Texas legislature from having a quorum to vote on a new redistricting bill. They were widely pilloried by Republicans at home and across the country, even though their tactic eventually succeeded. To turn around now and cheer on these Oregon Republicans would be rank hypocrisy.

The Oregon GOP is in this position because Democrats hold a supermajority in the legislature. If you want to effect change and promote more conservative policies, you do so by making better arguments and winning more elections. I realize that’s difficult in such a blue state, but it’s been done before. And when jobs begin disappearing and costs begin rising due to this cap and trade scheme, it won’t be the Republicans that voters blame. Go home, do your jobs and bide your time. The voters will be looking to you once the damage from this legislative package begins hitting home.

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