Oregon Legislative Session Adjourns Prematurely After Republican Legislators Boycott Cap And Trade Vote

Madalena Larkins

The Charter News


On Monday February 24th, Republicans in the Oregon state legislature participated in a walk out in an attempt to kill the cap and trade bill, a piece of climate legislation that would require fuel companies to pay for greenhouse gas emissions. They have not returned to the Capitol since.

This prevented the chamber from voting, as two thirds of lawmakers are required to be present. Two Republicans would have had to be in attendance for the vote to take place. All but one Republican, Senator Tim Knopp of Bend, participated in the walk out. 

Republicans want the bill on the November ballot for voters to decide, even though voters are likely to approve the bill. Democrats say this would delay implementation of the bill too long and that Oregonians voted on their representatives, who said they wanted climate legislation, therefore if legislators don’t vote on the bill they aren’t doing the job they were elected to do. 

Republicans retreating from the Capital made it impossible for the legislature to be in session, not only preventing the chamber from voting on cap and trade, but all other bills as well, including ones to address gun regulations, the housing crisis and homelessness, earthquake preparedness, and of course climate change. 

Democrats brought the 2020 legislative session to a close on March 5th after Republicans maintained their walkout for more than a week. Under the Oregon constitution the session was required to adjourn by March 8th. Subsequently, more than one hundred bills in the Oregon House and Senate were killed.  

Multiple Democratic legislators expressed concern that Republican lawmakers boycotting votes that they expected to lose might become the new normal, and even worried that state lawmakers outside Oregon would follow suit. 

This isn’t the first time Republicans have boycotted legislative sessions. They also walked out  before a vote on the 2019 version of the cap and trade bill, as well as before the vote on a vaccine bill.

Oregon Public Broadcasting (OPB) quoted Governor Kate Brown saying: “It’s extremely disappointing that instead of staying to do the jobs they were elected to do Senate Republicans have chosen to take a taxpayer-funded vacation,” she went on to say that “Senate Republicans are not against climate policy, they are against the democratic process.” 

Brown also said in a statement that she wouldn’t rule out a special legislative session, “if we can ensure it will benefit Oregonians… until legislative leaders bring me a plan for a functioning session, I’m not going to waste taxpayer dollars calling them back to the state Capital,” as quoted in The Oregonian. 

Republican Senator Alan Olsen, who represents district 20 in the Oregon State Senate, which includes Oregon City, did not respond to The Charter’s request for comment. 


Image: Oregon State Capitol building, photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

Borrud, Hillary. “Oregon Senate Republicans walk out over climate cap-and-trade bill” The Oregonian, Feb. 24 2020. https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2020/02/oregon-senate-republicans-announce-walkout-over-climate-cap-and-trade-bill.html 

Borrud, Hillary. “20 bills that died in the Oregon Legislature after Republicans walked out” The Oregonian, March 7 2020. https://www.oregonlive.com/politics/2020/03/20-bills-that-died-in-oregon-legislature-after-republicans-walked-out.html 

Brown, Kate. Governor’s office, Press Office news releases. Accessed March 8 2020. https://www.oregon.gov/newsroom/Pages/Agency.aspx?agency=GOV&category= 

Dake, Lauren. “With Oregon Republicans’ Walkout Ongoing, New Routines Are Forming In The Capitol”  Oregon Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, March 2  2020. https://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-salem-capitol-republican-walkout-legislature-routines/ 

Dake, Lauren. “Oregon’s 2020 Legislative Session Ends With Little To Show After Republican Walkout” Oregon Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, March 5 2020. https://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-2020-republican-walkout-legislative-session-ends/ 

Hammond, Betsy, and Borrud, Hillary. “Oregon legislative session ends early after Republican no-show over cap and trade” The Oregonian, March 5 2020. https://www.oregonlive.com/news/2020/03/oregon-legislative-session-ends-early-after-republican-no-show-over-cap-and-trade.html

Profita, Cassandra. “With Oregon Climate Action Stalled In Salem, Some Businesses Look Beyond Cap And Trade.” Oregon Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, March 4 2020. https://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-cap-trade-bill-legislation-climate-change-businesses/ 

Selsky, Andrew. “Oregon 2020 legislative session implodes amid GOP walkout.” Associated Press. March 6 2020.https://apnews.com/37d1836e49897626bbe32607b1f50cd4

VanderHart, Dirk.  “As Cap-And-Trade Bill Moves Forward, Republicans Head For Exits.”Oregon Public Broadcasting, National Public Radio, Feb. 25 2020. https://www.opb.org/news/article/oregon-republican-senator-walkout-cap-and-trade-bill/

2020 Regular Session, Bill Selection, Senate Bills 1501-1599 House Bills 4001-4099, Accessed March 6 2020. https://www.oregonlegislature.gov/bills_laws/listbills/CurrentSessionBills.html