Oregon Senate Republicans stayed away from the Capitol Thursday, preventing a vote on HB 2020, a key bill for Democrats that would cap greenhouse gas emissions. The walk-out is a mistake, just as was another walkout in May.
Resolution of the last Republican walk-out in May 2019 involved an agreement by Democrats to sacrifice a bill that would have tightened vaccine exemptions and a gun reform bill that would have tightened gun restrictions.
The Republicans might have placated some of their anti-vaccine and anti-gun control base, but those voters were never going to switch political sides anyway. Moreover, the anti-vax crowd is actually pretty small. Just 17% of Americans believe that “parents should be able to decide not to vaccinate their children, even if that may create health risks for other children and adults,” according to Pew Research.
Resolution of the May Republican walk-out also involved included a pledge by the Republicans not to walk out again for the rest of the 2019 session. The new walk-out compromises that commitment.
The Republicans claim that the agreement was conditional on them having opportunities to have a meaningful impact on HB 2020 as it moved forward. So much for that..
A key Republican goal is to get an emergency clause in the cap-and-trade bill removed. The clause would allow the bill to go into effect immediately after Gov. Brown signs it, preventing opponents from trying to refer the bill to voters for a costly and contentious fight.
Removal of the emergency clause could mean the Democrats would be facing iffy public votes on two major bills dear to their hearts, the cap-and-trade law and the Student Success Act, which will impose a gross receipts tax on Oregon businesses to fund $2 billion in education spending every two years.
A Senate agreement to remove the emergency clause would also mean sending the bill back to the House for another vote, a potentially time-consuming move that could mean no resolution before the Legislative session is set to end on June 30.
Frankly, the Democrats would be slitting their own throats if they agreed to remove the emergency clause. Oregon has a high environmental profile, but winning a public vote on the cap-and-trade law, with its projected cost of $550 million just in the first year and a sweeping progressive spending agenda, would be a heavy lift. The projected increase in gasoline and residential natural gas prices alone could turn off voters.
Knowing all this, the Democrats are unlikely to capitulate this time around.