REPUBLICAN STATE SENATE
Late Wednesday night, 11 Republican senators from Oregon said they aren’t returning to work because they don’t believe the cap-and-trade energy conservation bill that prompted them to flee the state is actually dead, as top Democratic leaders have suggested. “Despite the rumors, there has been no deal,” Senate Republicans said in a prepared statement. It’s been more than a week since GOP senators fled the state to avoid a vote on HB 2020, also known as the cap-and-trade bill, which would reduce fossil fuel emissions through a cap on carbon.
The conflict over controversial cap-and-trade legislation in Salem is spilling into new territory. A child welfare worker says the GOP senators that walked out of the Legislature to prevent a vote on cap-and-trade may have violated campaign finance and ethics rules. “We are requesting a prompt and thorough investigation into campaign finance and ethics violations committed by Republican state senators,” Andrea Kennedy-Smith said. In a statement released Wednesday, Miller asked his employees and contractors to reconsider doing business with nearly 100 businesses that signed on to support the cap-and-trade legislation. Miller named small and large companies, including Nike, Adidas, New Seasons, Lyft, Uber, the Portland Trail Blazers, the Portland Timbers, and Deschutes Brewing.
Oregon’s Senate Democrats needed support from 16 of their 18 members to pass House Bill 2020, which would cap the state’s carbon emissions. It became clear on Tuesday they’d come up short. Sen. Betsy Johnson has been open about her opposition to the proposed cap-and-trade legislation, while Sen. Arnie Roblan also expressed doubts. Sen. Laurie Monnes Anderson had successfully pushed for some changes in the bill, and supporters were under the impression she planned to vote “yes.” Yet three well-placed Capitol sources affiliated with Democrats confirmed on Tuesday that Monnes Anderson was the third hold-out.
Oregon lawmakers have just four days left in the legislative session to pass budgets and bills on issues ranging from sexual misconduct in schools to foster care reform. But despite high-level negotiations between absent Senate Republicans and top Democrats Wednesday, no Republicans were present to help provide a quorum when Senate President Peter Courtney called the roll for the 9:30 a.m. Senate floor session this morning, and it appeared doubtful any would appear. Republicans walked out a week ago to block a vote on climate change legislation. Courtney noted Thursday morning that all 18 Democrats were present, “the same 18 that have been here all week,” and recessed his chamber until 3 p.m.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
More than a day after leading Democrats gave up hope of passing a divisive climate-change bill this session, Senate Republicans still refused to return to the Capitol on Wednesday. In the most relaxed day in the statehouse since GOP senators walked off the job last week, no news of an agreement to get the legislative session back on track emerged. Lawmakers and staff openly speculated on whether the 11 Republicans would return in time to complete business before the session’s mandatory June 30 adjournment, and what might convince them to do so. Republicans initially walked out to prevent a vote on House Bill 2020, which aims to fight climate change by capping carbon emissions in Oregon and charging polluters. Senate President Peter Courtney announced Tuesday that the bill didn’t have the votes to pass — essentially declaring it dead.
Andrea Kennedy-Smith, a child welfare worker from McMinnville, filed a complaint against the GOP senators with the Oregon Ethics Commission and the Oregon Secretary of State on June 26. She says the Senate absences and subsequent fundraising activities violate Oregon ethics and campaign finance laws — and she wants the state to investigate. It’s been a eventful week.
GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Oregon Public Broadcasting
The head of Oregon’s embattled child welfare agency is retiring — effectively immediately and with an apparent push from the governor. Marilyn Jones led the Department of Human Services’ Child Welfare Division and was responsible for overseeing foster children and other at-risk kids. A longtime state worker, she took over the office in September 2017 with a mandate to fix the agency after a series of scandals and mistakes. But Jones’ tenure was marked by more trouble. That included reports that children sent to facilities out of state never received visits from Oregon caseworkers and that a facility in Montana drugged and physically restrained a 9-year-old Oregon girl. Oregon has been sending children to several facilities that other states have stopped using because of abuse reports. A national advocacy group sued Oregon in April.
Harney County is coming to the defense of the Hammonds, the father-and-son ranchers pardoned last year by President Trump and now fighting to maintain a 10-year permit to graze cattle on federal land outside Burns. The county’s attorney, a commissioner, the sheriff and some residents argue much is at stake for southeastern Oregon’s high desert expanse, still reeling from the armed takeover of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016.
Columbia County’s 911 agency has learned the hard way that an errant decimal point can make an enormous difference. The Columbia 9-1-1 Communications District — the agency that fields emergency calls in the 52,000-person county — asked voters in May to approve an operations levy taxing property owners “.29 cents per $1,000 of assessed property value.” The agency meant to ask for “29 cents” per $1,000.
The state agency in charge of earthquake study and preparation, as well as monitoring mining efforts in Oregon, could be shut down after going over budget for the second time in four years. The Department of Geology and Mineral Industries, widely known as DOGAMI, will lose three staff members and the Governor’s office is considering whether the agency should continue to exist in its current form given its financial woes.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
North Clackamas School officials broke ground Wednesday for the district’s newest high school — the end of a contentious and historic process. Adrienne C. Nelson High School is named for the associate justice of the Oregon Supreme Court. Last year, she became the first African American to serve on either the state Court of Appeals or the Supreme Court. The decision to name the high school after the justice was controversial. “I am totally overwhelmed and humbled by the support and quite frankly by the conversation that happened to bring us to this day … this was a process,” Nelson said at the groundbreaking ceremony.