Oregon governor sends state police to round up GOP senators who fled Capitol

Oregon state capitol in Salem
(Image credit: iStockphoto)

All 12 Oregon Senate Republicans fled the Oregon Capitol on Thursday to prevent the Democratic supermajority from passing a cap-and-trade bill, their second walkout this legislative session. This time, Oregon Gov. Kate Brown (D) deployed the state police to try to round up the senators and return them to the Capitol. There are 18 Senate Democrats, and 20 senators are required to conduct business.

"Oregon State Police can force any senators they track down in Oregon into a patrol car to return them to the Capitol, although the agency said in a statement that it would use 'polite communication' and patience to bring the rogue lawmakers back," The Associated Press reports. Each absentee lawmaker will also be fined $500 a day starting Friday if at least two don't return. They don't seem inclined, and one, Sen. Brian Boquist (R), believed to be hiding out in Idaho, earned a rebuke for telling Brown to "send bachelors and come heavily armed" because he's "not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon."

State police said late Thursday they've been in contact with some GOP senators and "out of state resources" are assisting them with lawmakers who fled Oregon.

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Oregon Democrats have used their new supermajorities on both houses to pass a business tax to fund education, a statewide rent control law, and juvenile justice reforms, and Senate Democrats aim to pass House-approved measures on bills allowing undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses, modify the death penalty, and change zoning laws, among other items, The Oregonian reports. Lawmakers also have to approve a budget, though they have extended current funding through September, averting a shutdown starting July 1.

But it is the cap-and-trade bill, putting a limit on greenhouse gas emissions and auctioning off carbon "allowances," that prompted GOP senators to flee. Oregon would be the second state to implement such a system, after California.

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