Oregon’s statehouse shut down over the weekend following threats issued by militias that are lending support to Republican senators opposed to the state’s cap-and-trade legislation.
A vote that was to have taken place on Thursday, June 20 was suspended after all 11 Senate Republicans walked out, leaving the Senate short of the required quorum. After Oregon Gov. Kate Brown dispatched state troopers to find the lawmakers, paramilitary groups threatened to disrupt pending sessions.
At the center of the spectacle is a controversial cap-and-trade bill that would cut carbon emissions. The legislation, which passed the Oregon House last week, would restrict fossil fuel emissions from polluting industries. The transportation sector, which contributes around 40 percent of the state’s emissions, would be heavily impacted. Analyses show the cap-and-trade program would increase gas prices by around 22 cents a gallon by 2021.
During a telephone call to members last Wednesday, Oregon Trucking Association president Jana Jarvis told members to contact Senators and tell them to to vote against the bill.
On Thursday the Republican senators walked out. They remain at large, with the majority believed to be hiding out in Idaho.
Reached by phone on Sunday, Jarvis said the walkout was “the only good option.”
She explained, “The real story is there hasn’t been good dialogue about the impact of the bill on the transportation sector and specifically on the freight industry.” The bill “affects every trucking company in Oregon.”
But Jarvis stopped short of endorsing the Senators no-show. “Intentionally I’m not taking a position,” she said, adding, “It’s been quite a weekend.”
Although walkouts are used by both parties as a political strategy, the events of the past few days have taken an unusually ominous turn.
At one point Oregon Republican Sen. Brian Boquist suggested he might shoot police officers who pursued him.
“Send bachelors and come heavily armed,” Boquist warned police in a televised interview shortly before his walkout. “I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”
The Senate had scheduled sessions Saturday, but cancelled them after reports of several militias’ “Rally to Take the Capitol” this weekend.
One of the militia groups included members of the Three Percenters of Oregon, an organization that was part of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge takeover in 2016.
State Democrats did hold a brief floor session on Sunday but with the Republicans still AWOL they once again lacked the required number of Senators to proceed with a vote.