SALEM, Ore. — On Tuesday morning, Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney suggested that HB 2020, the climate change bill that prompted GOP senators to flee the state six days ago, doesn't have enough votes to pass.
"House Bill 2020 does not have the votes on the Senate floor," Courtney said. "That will not change."
Later Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick confirmed that the bill is likely dead for this legislative session.
Burdick told reporters that there isn't enough support within the Democratic party to pass what would be the second statewide cap and trade plan in the nation. Burdick says that it was her sense that "the votes were never there" even before the Republican walkout.
The Senate would still vote on the measure if Republicans returned. Burdick says it would likely be a procedural vote to send the proposal back to committee.
Since the GOP walkout began, Courtney has opened the morning floor session each day, gaveling it open and immediately gaveling it postponed for the day.
But on Tuesday, Courtney instead made an impassioned plea for the GOP senators to return to chambers. He said no one directed him to make his remarks. "It's just Peter," he told his Democratic colleagues on the floor.
Courtney said there are more than a hundred bills held up by the stalemate that affect "every facet of our lives." Most all of them have been crafted by a process that included both parties, he pointed out. Especially painful for him are bills left languishing that protect children.
"I can't stand children suffering," he said.
Bills remain that help solve mental health issues, farming, economic development, mental health and other needs, he said. Courtney, who has spent most of his adult life in the legislature, said that the bipartisan budget work this session was the best he has ever witnessed.
"Please senators, come to this floor," he said in closing.
On Tuesday morning, protesters at the state Capitol called for Senate Republicans to return to work.
Executive director Reyna Lopez, executive director for Pineros y Campesinos Unidos del Noroeste, or PCUN, the Oregon Farmworker Union, helped organize the event.
Lopez said Republicans fleeing the state hurts Oregonians. Not only are they disabling a vote on the cap-and-trade bill, but also other bills that are being held up by their absence.
Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger says Republicans need further assurances that the legislation is at a "complete end." The Minority Leader adds that he still needs to have further conversations with Democrats so that "Republicans feel comfortable with the process."
Currently, 140 bills are frozen. Thirty-four of those bills deal with budgets. The current Senate session ends Sunday, June 30 at 11:59 p.m.
"I think that right now, they should be passing budgets, they should be making sure people are getting their healthcare, they should be making sure foster kids are taken care of, and instead, they deserted their post, they deserted Oregonians," Lopez said.
On Saturday, state police recommended closing the Capitol on Saturday after anti-government groups threatened to join a protest planned inside the building. The militia threat never materialized and less than 100 protesters showed up over the weekend.
LEARN MORE: What is cap-and-trade?
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