Oregon GOP State Senators Go Into Hiding To Avoid A Climate Vote
STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:
Republican state senators in Oregon are in hiding over a climate change bill that would reduce greenhouse gas emissions over time. The move left the state Senate two senators shy of a quorum, which meant they have not been able to vote the last several days. Governor Kate Brown authorized Oregon state police to track down and return Republicans to the capitol, which prompted a response from Republican State Senator Brian Boquist on KGW-TV.
(SOUNDBITE OF KGW BROADCAST)
BRIAN BOQUIST: This is what I told the superintendent: send bachelors, and come heavily armed. I'm not going to be a political prisoner in the state of Oregon.
INSKEEP: One of the senators on the run is Tim Knopp, who represents Bend, Ore., and is on the line. Senator, welcome.
TIM KNOPP: Thank you.
INSKEEP: To the extent you're willing to say - since I guess you guys are hiding from the police - where are you?
KNOPP: Well, all's I can say is that I am out of the state of Oregon in the state of Idaho. And we are in a protest against House bill 2020, which is a carbon tax bill.
INSKEEP: Out of the state of Oregon - so do you believe you are out of the long arm of the state police?
KNOPP: I have been told that they know where we are but we are out of their reach. And the governor of Idaho has said that they are not going to participate in bringing us back to Oregon.
INSKEEP: We understand Democrats control the legislature. The Democrats have supported this climate bill that would reduce carbon emissions in the state of Oregon, as some other states - particularly California - have done. Why would you avoid the legislature to block that from passing, at least for a little while?
KNOPP: House bill 2020 institutes a carbon tax. And the result of that is a massive gas tax increase of about 22 cents a gallon to start out with. It raises after that. And it raises natural gas prices by about 50% over a period of years. And it makes us uncompetitive in manufacturing jobs, and we'll lose thousands of manufacturing jobs.
INSKEEP: People hear this, and they hear something that's basically undemocratic. There's a majority of votes for something, and you're blocking that. Why is that a good idea?
KNOPP: Well, actually, it's quite democratic because the constitution allows for the fact that, in order to do business, you must have a quorum. So in order to do business, you need to be working in a bipartisan way with your colleagues.
INSKEEP: Why would you say they're not being bipartisan, though? Haven't Democrats actually considered and adopted some amendments to this measure, even if they haven't done everything you want?
KNOPP: They've listened, but they've adopted very little of what concerns the constituents that we care about.
INSKEEP: They did, if I'm not mistaken, include an amendment in this bill that allows exemptions for businesses if they're using the best available technology to reduce carbon. That actually sounds like a rather large concession.
KNOPP: It would seem that way. But unfortunately, the effect on natural resource industries, timber and agriculture, are going to be pretty significant. And those are the districts that we represent.
INSKEEP: Do the members of your Republican caucus in Oregon accept that there is human-caused climate change and that it is a problem?
KNOPP: Yeah. We've actually said very clearly that we believe that we need to reduce carbon dioxide emissions. We just said this bill is the most expensive and complicated way to go about doing that, and that's why we've sought amendments to this bill. And it appeared as though last Thursday - that if we allowed this to come to a vote, that it was simply just going to pass without any additional amendments to the bill.
INSKEEP: I do have to ask, because Republicans on the national level have been so skeptical to say the least of climate change and climate science - is there anything that you've done that demonstrates good faith here, that you're not just trying to find some way to block a climate measure?
KNOPP: Our members have drafted over 50 amendments to this bill. And very few of those of any substance were included in this bill.
INSKEEP: How do you see this ending, Senator?
KNOPP: We want to make sure that it's a bipartisan, bicameral fix and that, ultimately, substantial amendments to this bill are put in the bill. Otherwise, what we would request is that this be a referral and that the people of Oregon have a chance to vote on significant change in the economy in the state of Oregon.
INSKEEP: All right. Senator, thanks for the time. Really appreciate it.
KNOPP: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.