OREGON STATE SENATE WALK OUT
Senate Republicans apparently feel no compunction to provide Democrats with a quorum so they can pass a piece of legislation Republicans contend will be disastrous for their constituents. The minority-party line is that the state’s complex and controversial carbon cap and trade scheme was developed largely without bipartisan compromise. The say it’s a gift to “Multnomah County progressives” who — once again — show no regard for the state’s rural residents or the economically vulnerable industries they continue to rely on.
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.
Oregon Democratic Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday authorized state police to locate Senate Republicans and bring them back to the state Capitol after some left the state to block the chamber’s proceedings. After more than eight hours of fruitless negotiations late into Wednesday night, Republican state senators in Oregon walked out of a session on Thursday over disagreements on HB 2020, a cap and trade climate bill. All 11 GOP senators failed to appear later Thursday for floor proceedings, leaving the legislative body two senators short of a quorum, according to Kate Kondayen, a spokeswoman for Brown. At least some of the senators have left the state, according to a statement from the Oregon Senate Republicans, and the wife of one of them says they are all in Idaho at an undisclosed location.
Outside the Oregon State Capitol, small groups of protesters jockeyed for position. There were loggers who opposed the cap-and-trade bill up for a vote that morning. And there were young climate activists who said the legislation was vital to preserving the world they would soon inherit. But there were a few crucial components missing from the political drama unfolding in Salem on Thursday. Namely, the lawmakers. Inside the statehouse, the Senate chambers were conspicuously quiet. As the clerk called roll, a third of the room’s seats were empty. The Republicans, facing down a Democratic supermajority bent on passing bills to combat climate change, resorted to some last-ditch political arithmetic: no senators, no votes.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown deployed the state police Thursday 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.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
A contentious tobacco tax proposal narrowly cleared the two-thirds majority hurdle in the Oregon House before it heads to the Senate, and if successful there, to the ballot in November 2020. The legislation would raise cigarette taxes from $1.33 per pack to $3.33, raise a 50 cent tax cap on cigars to $1 and establish Oregon’s first-ever tax on “gateway tobacco” products like e-cigarettes and vaping. With the recent surge of vaping in adolescents, House Bill 2270 aims to curb what looks like a whole new generation that could be addicted to nicotine. In the past year, use of e-cigarettes increased 78% in high schoolers and 48% in middle schoolers nationwide.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oregon lawmakers approved a bill on Thursday that would create a statewide family and medical leave insurance fund. The bill passed the House on a 43 to 15 vote. It now heads to the Senate, where the fate of all bills are uncertain amid an ongoing protest by Senate Republicans who have left the building. The paid-leave bill would allow Oregon workers up to 12 weeks away from work for family leave, medical leave or to address a domestic violence situation. Currently, most workers in Oregon are protected only under the federal Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows for 12 weeks without pay.
An effort to bring the state’s non-unanimous jury system to voters gained momentum Thursday as the Oregon House of Representatives passed House Joint Resolution 10. Oregon is the only state where not all 12 jurors need to find a defendant guilty in order to convict in rape, manslaughter, attempted murder and other criminal trials. The resolution passed unanimously in the House with three representatives excused and one absent. It now heads to the Senate. The resolution, along with House Bill 2615, aims to take this issue of non-unanimous juries to the voters by having them vote on the issue in the 2020 election.
The Oregon House on Thursday approved a measure that would ask voters to overturn the state’s decades-long practice of allowing split juries to convict felony defendants, an anomaly within the American criminal justice system that reform advocates have targeted as deeply flawed and racist. House Joint Resolution 10 sailed through the lower chamber, 56-0, in an unanimous vote by lawmakers. “I believe this is a stain on our criminal justice system,” said House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland), one of the bill’s chief sponsors. “When a defendant’s freedom is on the line, their guilt or innocence should not be subject to majority rule.”
The Oregon House passed the bill to require cities to stop excluding duplexes and other housing types from neighborhoods now zoned for single-family homes. House Bill 2001 requires cities over 25,000 to allow duplexes, triplexes and quads in neighborhoods zoned for single-family housing. Cities of 10,000 or more must allow duplexes, under the bill. It’s the second piece of high-profile housing legislation championed by the Oregon Speaker of the House, Tina Kotek, who earlier this session passed a first-in-the-nation statewide cap on rent increases.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Early this past June, Coos County Sheriff Craig Zanni was in his Coquille, Oregon, office fielding an email from a sovereign citizen. The sender was claiming that the Oregon state government doesn’t have grounds to operate because it can’t provide him with a copy of the 1859 state constitution. Sovereign citizens reject the legitimacy of the state and federal government. All of it: taxation, currency, the courts and, of course, gun laws. Zanni says a significant number of people in his southern Oregon county, population 69,000, hold similar views. Except for the rare exception, he says they’re not dangerous.
Albany Democrat Herald
Sponsors of proposed intermodal transportation projects in Millersburg, Brooks and Nyssa have until 5 p.m. Friday, July 12, to lay their cards on the table and disclose as much financial data about potential costs and income as they can to members of the Oregon Transportation Commission. Members of the commission had expected to make a final decision Thursday afternoon about providing $26 million for a project in eastern Oregon and $25 million for either Millersburg or Brooks in the mid-valley.
Clackamas County Sheriff Craig Roberts says he’s done working with outside consultants who issued an unsparing report a year ago criticizing how his staff handled a detective’s misconduct investigating sex abuse cases. Roberts told county leaders he won’t allow OIR Group to do another review of the Sheriff’s Office policies and training even though the Clackamas County Board of Commissioners hired the firm in March for up to $37,500 to do a follow-up analysis.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Portland State University trustees say they will take the summer to review the university’s campus safety plan, pushing back a decision on whether to disarm campus police officers. Interim president Stephen Percy said in a meeting Thursday that students and faculty will have time to offer opinions on whether to disarm campus officers after they return to PSU in the fall. Percy says groups are discussing more than 100 recommendations laid out in an independent review of campus safety published earlier this year.