Salem, OR – One day after the governor of Oregon threatened to have the state police haul Republican lawmakers back to the Capitol to vote on a major climate change bill, she’s making good on her promise.
All 11 Republican members of the state senate failed to show up for a vote on the Democrat-backed carbon cap and spend bill on Thursday, The Oregonian reported.
Democrats have a super-majority in both chambers of the Oregon legislature, but all 18 senate Democrats still need at least two more senators to show up in order to have the quorum required to vote.
On Wednesday, Governor Kate Brown warned the GOP caucus against stonewalling and warned that if they conducted a threatened walkout, she would send law enforcement to bring them back to vote.
Republicans didn’t take kindly to her threat to leverage her authority over the Oregon State Police.
Republican Oregon State Senator Brian Boquist told KGW he had discussed Brown’s threat with Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton.
“This is what I told the superintendent,” Boquist said. “Send bachelors and come heavily armed. I’m not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon. It’s just that simple.”
The controversial remarks were made after a heated discussion earlier in the week during which Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. threatened that the GOP caucus was “prepared to take actions” to prevent passage of the greenhouse gas emissions bill, Newsweek reported.
In response, Brown warned that if Republicans stonewalled, she would call them back for a special session, The Oregonian reported.
The governor implied that if Republican legislators walked out in the final days of the session, she would send out troopers to round them up, Newsweek reported.
"We ask for, and take on responsibility, as elected representatives of the people of Oregon to show up and speak up on their behalf," Brown said in a statement. "I am prepared to use all resources and tools available to me as governor to ensure that Oregonians are being served by their leaders... I am in close communication with Oregon State Police."
Republicans brought the state senate to a standstill earlier this year when they walked out of the Capitol to prevent a quorum, The Oregonian reported.
Boquist later defended his statement and his threat.
“Nothing thinly veiled,” he wrote in an email to The Oregonian. “I have been in political coup attempts. I have been held hostage overseas. I have been jailed politically overseas… Not going to be arrested as a political prisoner in Oregon period.”
Boquist is a U.S. Army veteran who owns businesses that include military training and a paramilitary force of former American and Russian military officers who are contracted to perform international missions deemed too difficult for uniformed troops, the Willamette Week reported.
"I am doubtful that the governor will actually come arrest us," Boquist said, according to Newsweek. "The Oregon State Police are not authorized under statutory things for civil arguments.”
He said that state troopers have the power to enforce criminal violations and arrest warrants, but not to compel absent elected officials to show up for a vote in the Capitol, The Oregonian reported.
Despite those assertions, when Republican senators failed to show up in the state senate for the 11 a.m. session on Thursday, Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney sent the Sergeant at Arms to round them up.
But the lawmakers were nowhere to be found, The Oregonian reported.
So Courtney asked the governor to sick the state police on the legislators and have them brought back to Salem for the vote.
Brown quickly approved the request, The Oregonian reported.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Senate Republicans would turn their back on their constituents who they are honor-bound to represent here in this building,” the governor said in a statement. "They need to return and do the jobs they were elected to do.”
Although the Oregon constitution allows the majority party to “compel” legislators to attend, the process hasn’t been used in recent memory.
In fact, Democrats conducted a walkout in 2001 to stop a vote on a redistricting bill, The Oregonian reported.
Despite the fact that the absent legislators caused senate business to grind to a halt for a week, Republicans made no effort to “compel” their opposition to return to the Capitol.
The GOP leadership released a statement on Wednesday that sided with Boquist.
"My caucus and I have been threatened by the Governor, Senate President, and Majority Leader with fines and arrests because they do not agree with our stance to protect rural Oregonians from cap and trade," Baertschiger wrote. "Walking out is part of the conversation because the Governor is not willing to move on her position on the bill, and she is only representing Portland and the environmental community, not rural Oregonians."
Republicans conducted an informal walkout in early May when GOP lawmakers failed to appear in the state senate for almost a week over disagreements over significant PERS reform and the Student Success Act, the Salem Statesman Journal reported.
GOP lawmakers only returned to the Capitol after Democrats killed a bill that would have removed the non-medical vaccine exemption for schoolchildren and did away with omnibus gun control legislation.