Oregon Gov. Kate Brown announced on Wednesday that she is preparing to call a special legislative session for the first week of July.
In what amounts to a chess move by the governor, Brown declared her intentions while Senate Republicans remain in the state Capitol but have threatened to stage a walkout.
A vote on a controversial climate bill is looming and Oregon Senate Republicans are hoping to prevent Democrats from passing the legislation.
The governor said she is in close communication with Oregon State Police - a sign that she could use them to physically bring Republicans back to the upper chamber - and said she will ensure lawmakers stay in the building until their “jobs are done.”
“People place their lives on the line to protect our democracy, and it’s a slap in the face of those sacrifices for the Senate Republicans to turn their back on respectful dialogue just because they don’t agree with others in the conversation,” the governor said in a statement.
Republican Senator Brian Boquist responded angrily to the idea that Gov. Brown and Senate president Peter Courtney could use state troopers to force them back to work.
“If you don’t think these boots are for walking, you’re flat wrong Mr. President. And you send the state police to get me? Hell’s coming to visit you personally,” said Boquist.
In an interview with OPB, Boquist said that if state troopers come for him, they should be armed.
On Wednesday, loggers filled the rotunda of the state Capitol protesting the upcoming vote putting more pressure on the Republicans who are trying to stop the legislation.
Some Republicans said Brown’s announcement on Wednesday made things worse and only served to further escalate tensions.
“It did not help things at all,” said Sen. Fred Girod, R-Stayton, as he was leaving a Republican caucus on Wednesday morning, where he said members discussed leaving.
Girod said he anticipates Republicans will leave the Capitol.
“It could be at 1 o’ clock, or it could be three or four days from now. This is a governor who wants everything the Portland way and it is terrible for rural Oregon,” he said.
Later, he added: “I’ve been here for almost 16 years and I’ve never seen a governor this lousy in my life.”
The Senate chamber was a tense place Wednesday morning.
Sen. Brian Boquist, R-Dallas, told his colleagues he did not like being threatened with the state police.
“If you send the state police to get me, Hell is coming to visit you personally,” Boquist said.
In an interview later, the state Senator said he’s willing to leave the Capitol.
“If it is necessary to leave to protect our districts to get democracy to work that’s what we’ll do,” he said.
Sen. Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger, R-Grants Pass, said he wants to see the emergency clause pulled from the bill, allowing for it to be referred to voters.
“All we want is for the people of Oregon to vote on this horrible bill. 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 said in a statement. “Walking out is part of the conversation because the Governor is not willing to move on her position on the bill … Oregon is a dictatorship, not by one person, but by one party.”
Baertschiger’s spokeswoman, Kate Gillem, said talks of removing the emergency clause from the bill aren’t going well and right now the likelihood appears to be “nonexistent.”
Earlier this legislative session, Senate Republicans left the statehouse for four days, denying the Senate a quorum they need to pass bills. The constitution requires at least 20 members of the Senate are present to conduct their business. Republicans managed to delay a vote on a multi-billion dollar business tax.
The business tax eventually passed, but a deal was struck to get Republicans back into the building. Brown agreed to kill a bill tightening the state’s vaccine laws and another strengthening gun laws.
Democrats also agreed to give Republicans more of a voice in the cap-and-trade policy proposal. Republicans, in turn, said they would give Democrats a quorum for the rest of the session and not deploy other delay tactics, such as requiring the bills be read out loud in their entirety.
If Republicans decide to leave the statehouse, terms of the deal would be upended. Brown, who was a key negotiator in May, said if Republicans walk out again, she would call the state police to bring them back into the Capitol and call a special session if necessary.
This post will be updated.