REPUBLICAN STATE SENATE WALKOUT
One of the runaway Oregon Republican senators said they won’t return to the state until the “inefficient, complicated, and expensive” carbon tax is scrapped and a bipartisan solution is found. Oregon State Senator Tim Knopp appeared on “Fox and Friends” Tuesday morning from an undisclosed location as he and other 11 Republicans remain in hiding to block the looming climate change legislation – all while the state police was authorized by Democratic Gov. Kate Brown to round them up. He said that the Republican walkout was warranted given the damage the legislation would inflict upon the people of Oregon, but stressed that they too want to combat climate change.
The Benton County Sheriff is investigating threats made against Oregon Republican Party chairman Bill Currier, adding to the tension surrounding the standoff between the Democratic governor and runaway Republicans in the state Senate. Mr. Currier and Becky Currier, his wife, received a total of three messages Sunday morning on their cellphones from what sounded like the same unidentified man threatening their family, according to audio recordings provided to The Washington Times. “Bill, what if something bad happens to your family? What if somebody shoots them or something bad happens? I think you should be worried,” said one message.
The Wall Street Journal
Four days after fleeing his home in Oregon, State Senator Cliff Bentz is still figuring out how to be a fugitive. He has changed hotels twice (partly to keep down costs) and bought a burner cellphone (he’s sure the authorities can track his regular phone). But on Sunday, he still hadn’t set the burner up and was making calls on his usual cell. “I don’t think any of us have really been—I hate to say on the lam, but…” Mr. Bentz said. “It’s probably incorrect to be talking to you on this phone. They don’t give classes on this.” Sen. Bentz and the 10 other Republicans in the Oregon Senate decamped the capital last week in an effort to block a landmark climate bill. Without at least two GOP members present, the Senate—despite the Democratic supermajority—doesn’t have a quorum and can’t pass the bill, which would create a statewide cap-and-trade system to limit carbon emissions.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
The fate of a sweeping climate change proposal that prompted Senate Republicans to abandon the statehouse appeared in doubt Monday, as both sides continued negotiations to end the standoff. Throughout the day, rumors circulated in the Capitol that House Bill 2020 was in jeopardy — because of shakiness in the Democratic ranks, the need to get Republicans back in the building, or both. Staffers, lawmakers and lobbyists all said that the bill could be offered up as a sacrifice in order for the Legislature to adjourn by the constitutionally mandated date of June 30. At the same time, leading Democrats were tight-lipped about the state of talks, and Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, issued a statement to announce there was no deal.
Last week, Republicans in Oregon’s Senate fled the state in order to block a vote on a high-profile climate change bill that would cap greenhouse gas emissions. Oregon polluters who would pay under the plan include most industrial businesses, natural gas utilities and suppliers of diesel and gasoline, meaning drivers would eventually pay a lot more at the gas pump. Those are some of the concerns Republicans cited for their walk-out. Senate Democrats and Gov. Kate Brown promptly sent state troopers to try to retrieve the missing lawmakers.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown said Monday she won’t negotiate with Republicans who walked out to thwart landmark climate legislation, at least not until they return to the Capitol. All eleven Republican senators didn’t show up to work for a fifth day Monday, denying Democrats the number of lawmakers needed to vote on a potential statewide cap and trade plan. Brown, a Democrat, deployed the Oregon State Police last week to seek and retrieve Republicans, but many fled the state and remain outside the police’s jurisdiction. Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger said in a statement he has yet to reach a deal with Democrats and that Republicans “intend to remain out of state.” Democrats have an 18 to 11 majority but need 20 members to conduct business under state law.
As Oregon Senate Republicans for the fourth time ignored a scheduled Senate floor session Monday, staff and lawmakers in both chambers are taking a serious look at the bills that would die if they don’t return. Senate Democrats have circulated a list of about 100 bills headed for the trash pile, including budget bills for a number of state agencies, top priority bills for the governor and Democratic legislative leadership, and even Republican-sponsored bills designed to assist rural Oregonians. The 11 Republican senators fled Salem in protest of a greenhouse gas emissions cap-and-trade bill, which they say would harm Oregonians, especially those in industries such as logging.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
The Oregon House of Representatives passed two bills Monday to create a new cell phone fee and fund internet service in rural parts of the state. But the bills would provide no more than $5 million for the effort – half what supporters sought. Legislative forecasters say that would be a one-time infusion for Oregon broadband, rather than ongoing funding. And unless Republican senators return from their walkout the legislation will die when the current session ends next week.
Federal lawyers are prosecuting a wastewater plant operator for Union Pacific Railroad, alleging he allowed thousands of gallons of oil to seep from an overflowing tank into the Willamette River in January 2018. Robert LaRue Webb II is accused of negligently discharging oil from a storage tank at Union Pacific’s Albina Yard in North Portland into the river, causing a visible dark film on the water, according to a court filing in U.S. District Court in Portland. Webb faces one count of unlawful discharge of oil into the river, a violation of the Clean Water Act. “Union Pacific has cooperated fully with the government in connection with its investigation of this incident and will continue to do so,” Tim McMahan, a Union Pacific spokesman, said Monday.
U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden said Monday that if intelligence officials would not release a report on the slaying of journalist Jamal Khashoggi then he would invoke a Senate rule forcing its publication. In a speech on the Senate floor, the Democrat said the administration of President Donald Trump had sought to downplay Khashoggi’s killing, including the president himself, who has wavered on placing blame for the journalist’s death on the Saudi crown prince. Khashoggi was an American resident and Washington Post columnist when he was killed and dismembered at a Saudi embassy in Turkey. The death of Khashoggi, who had written critically about the Saudi government, sparked an international backlash and unanimous rebuke from the U.S. Senate, but Trump has resisted reprimanding his Saudi allies.
One wealthy couple has financed a large portion of the anti-vaccine rhetoric in the U.S. Their influence reaches from Manhattan to Salem, Ore. The chief executive of the Selz Foundation, Del Bigtree, used the financial support of a wealthy Manhattan couple to spread anti-vaccine propaganda in Oregon, speaking at a rally in Salem opposing a bill that would have banned non-medical vaccine exemptions. The Washington Post reported last week that wealthy hedge fund manager Bernard Selz and his wife Lisa Selz began funding anti-vaccine groups about seven years ago. Bigtree, who runs the couple’s philanthropic foundation, got his start as a daytime television producer and has called the measles a “trivial childhood illness.”
Oregon could allow cyclists to yield at stop signs and flashing red lights, rather than requiring a complete stop, in a well-backed bill that heads next to the House for its final vote. The proposal, known widely as the “Idaho Stop,” was named after the state that first allowed cyclists to roll through stop signs back in 1982. The law belonged uniquely to Idaho for 35 years before Delaware passed its own version, nicknamed the “Delaware Yield,” in 2017. Arkansas followed suit this past April. Senate Bill 998, which passed out of committee Monday, would make Oregon the fourth state to do away with a cycling law that many find unnecessary and even dangerous.
Climate change in the Western U.S. means more intense and frequent wildfires churning out waves of smoke that scientists say will sweep across the continent to affect tens of millions of people and cause a spike in premature deaths. That emerging reality is prompting people in cities and rural areas alike to gird themselves for another summer of sooty skies along the West Coast and in the Rocky Mountains — the regions widely expected to suffer most from blazes tied to dryer, warmer conditions.