BEND, OR -- Oregon Senate Republicans followed through on threats Thursday and left Salem for places unknown, to avoid a vote on the controversial Cap and Invest bill. It's the second time this session the GOP has denied a quorum in the Senate for controversial legislation. Senator Tim Knopp (R-Bend) spoke with KBND News from an undisclosed location. He says he and his fellow Republicans will stay away from the Capitol until Democrats begin serious negotiations on House Bill 2020, "If it needs to last through the end of June, I think our Senate Republican members are prepared to make that happen." The session ends June 30.
Under HB 2020, utilities and companies that produce greenhouse gas emissions would have to buy credits to offset pollution. Among other things, it would push gas prices up 22-cents a gallon in the first year. The bill passed the House earlier this week. Knopp says Republicans are under no obligation to provide a quorum to allow the Super Majority to push through a bill he believes doesn't include enough legislative oversight and should only apply to Multnomah County, "Part of what this bill ultimately is going to do is drive jobs and manufacturing out of Oregon, and will cost thousands of family-wage jobs to hard-working Oregonians. And, it’ll make it very difficult for them to put food on the table and we believe that’s something that needs to be protested, so that’s what we’re doing by not providing a quorum." He adds, "It’s the only – really – tool that we have to get their attention and get the public’s attention on this issue."
Thursday afternoon, Governor Brown ordered State Police to help round up any Senate Republicans still in Oregon. Knopp says that threat forced he and other members out of the state. In some cases, he says, they'll visit several states, "Based on what the Governor said – that she is going to exercise extreme power, in this case, which is to send the State Police to essentially arrest Legislators – that does not sound like the America that I know. And so, we, unfortunately, can’t stay in the state of Oregon at the moment."
Knopp says there is a continuing resolution in place for the state budget and most funding bills have already passed. If Governor Brown calls a special session on July second, as she's said she would, he says Republicans would return to vote on remaining budget bills, but not Cap and Invest.