Salem, OR – For the fifth day in a row, the GOP members of the Oregon State Senate are conspicuously absent from the Capitol, shutting down progress in the body by preventing the quorum needed for a vote.
A crowdfunding campaign has now been set up to help cover the expenses of the senators who have fled the state to hide from the Oregon State Police.
It all began on June 18 when Republican caucus leaders threatened to walk out of the state house if Democrats wouldn’t compromise on a highly controversial climate change bill.
The very next day, 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 threats were made after a heated discussion earlier in the week during which Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. declared that the GOP caucus was “prepared to take actions” to prevent passage of the greenhouse gas emissions bill, Newsweek reported.
The comments drew criticism The Washington Times reported.
“I’m really worried that this particular bill is being used to stir up the worst sentiments - the most dangerous sentiments we can imagine,” Democratic State Senator Michael Dembrow, who sponsored the climate change bill, said.
Dembrow said he hoped the GOP “can find a way to reject this path that Senator Boquist has taken them on and come back to do the people’s business.”
The proposed legislation is supposed to reduce greenhouse gases in Oregon by putting caps on carbon emissions and would require businesses to buy or trade for pollution “allowance,” according to The Washington Times.
While liberal cities like Portland are wildly in favor of the climate change legislation, the rest of the state, whose businesses are actually impacted by the new law, having been fighting it desperately.
Opponents have said the bill would kill jobs, raise the cost of fuel, and put small businesses out of business in rural areas, The Washington Times reported.
The logging industry is one of the largest interests impacted.
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 and so the governor sent the state police out to fetch them, 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.
Both the Oregon and U.S. Constitution allow for senators to be "compelled" to attend when a quorum is needed, although it's rarely used. Prior cases indicate that law enforcement can force lawmakers into vehicles and literally drag them into the senate.
Abraham Lincoln once jumped out of a window to avoid a quorum while he was a lawmaker in Illinois, according to KCPQ.
Leaving the jurisdiction of Oregon all but guarantees that law enforcement will be unable to seize them.
While initially silent, the Oregon State Police released a statement saying that they were following the orders of the governor.
Democrats voted to fine the Republican senators $500 a day for every day they skipped, The Washington Times reported.
A GoFundMe was set up to cover the expenses of the senators who are in hiding, and has raised $41,000.
The legislative session is scheduled to end on Friday but most of the state budget, as well as a number of other Democrat-sponsored bills including drivers licenses for illegal aliens, still require a vote to be passed.
The governor has threatened to call a special session if the Republic senators don’t return in time to finish business, The Washington Times reported.