SOMEWHERE OUT OF STATE – Oregon State Sen. Bill Hansell (R-Athena) joined fellow Republicans and walked out, not showing up Thursday and thus denying the Democratic supermajority a quorum. That prevents them from passing the controversial cap and invest bill. He says he and his party members returned from their first walkout because of promises made by the Democrats, and they didn’t keep a very important one.
“We were going to have a re-set of the cap and trade bill, House Bill 2020, and that never happened,” he said in a telephone interview with KUMA News. “So we felt that we weren’t in violation if we exercised the walk.”
The Athena Republican says the decision was made after hours of work on the bill yesterday. The Democrats at the table refused Hansell’s request that the emergency clause be removed from the bill. That means if it passes, it would go into effect as soon as the governor signs it. Hansell says that would negate the right of those who would want to see the carbon emissions legislation become a measure to be decided by voters.
“It was an item that, at the end of the day, the other side was unwilling to consider,” Hansell said.
Sen. Cliff Bentz (R-Ontario) represented the Republicans in negotiations with a representative from Gov. Kate Brown’s office, and one of the chief authors of the bill from the House of Representatives, and Hansell says they actually came up with some amendments that were acceptable to the three people who spent seven to eight hours at the table Wednesday. However, that’s where the negotiations stopped.
“They took them to the governor, speaker of the house (Rep. Tina Kotek), and the president (Sen. Peter Courtney),” Hansell said. “The word came back at around a quarter to eight last night that they had rejected it.”
He said the Republicans would have most likely accepted the proposed amendments and been at work Thursday. When they were refused, the Republicans decided to leave the building and deny a quorum. He says they are prepared to stay out until the legally-set end of the session on June 30.
Gov. Brown made good on her promise to involve the Oregon State Police in tracking the senators down and bringing them back to Salem on Thursday. Hansell, who said he was out of the state when he called, said that he did receive a voicemail from the Oregon State Police while his phone was turned off due to travel.
“It was to find out where we are, and that the commander would dispatch a trooper to compel us to come back to the capitol,” Hansell said. “I understand that that is only in effect for the duration of the call of the Senate. So, while the troopers for the last several hours have been trying to find us, the Democrats have had to stay on the floor of the Senate while the troopers have been searching for us.”
He said that when the call of the Senate is rescinded, allowing Democrats to leave the floor, the search for senators will be discontinued.
“The troopers can go back to doing what they’re supposed to be doing,” he said.
Hansell said that if the supermajority wants to return to the negotiating table, the GOP is ready to do so.
“We made that clear,” he said. “Our caucus chairman said he’s totally available by phone and would be happy to sit down and negotiate.”