ONTARIO — It’s not just the Republican lawmakers in both the Senate and House pushing to take the matter of the cap and trade initiative to the voters — the governing boards of 26 counties have signed proclamations stating they oppose passage of related bills by the legislative assembly, and another county is expected to sign on today.
That was part of an update about the walkout during a phone interview with Sen. Lynn Findley, R-Vale, on Wednesday afternoon.
The plan to reduce Oregon’s carbon emissions, called a carbon tax by those in opposition, has caught the attention of local officials, too, who have heard repeated testimony about how the plan would “cripple” rural parts of the state.
Among supporting bodies around the state is Malheur County Court, members of which adopted a proclamation on Wednesday, stating opposition to Senate Bill 1530 and House Bill 4167. The bills would burden residents of Malheur County with increased utility and fuel costs, it states, emphasizing that the benefits, “many of which are in dispute, do not justify penalties and costs imposed.”
Findley said the senate bill hasn’t totally been divisive.
“The one thing that SB 1530 had done that no bill before it has ever done is that it united western and eastern Oregon,” he said in a phone interview from a remote location not in Salem. “Counties in every corner of the state have said, ‘We don’t want this.’”
And in eastern Oregon, specifically, there have been ongoing discussions — included in testimony — that major industries may shut down or move elsewhere if the cap and trade initiative goes through.
There’s still much work remaining in the short session, Findley said, commenting however that it has become a matter of “my way or the highway” by the supermajority. This included Senate President Peter Courtney on Monday voting the matter out of a committee he doesn’t even sit on.
A similar move was done in the 2019 session, which also prompted a walkout by Senate GOP members.
While Courtney was acting within the scope of his authority, Findley said “it’s not a fair shake.” The District 30 Senator says he would prefer to see collective work on solutions rather than the “my way or the highway” issue this has become.
“It’s very frustrating,” Findley said.
He had absolutely no desire to boycott and leave Salem, “however they’ve known from the start of the session that we would walk” if the cap and trade was being pushed through.
“I’ve never walked away from a challenge in my life,” Findley said, having dealt with plenty of them during his wildland and wildfire career.
Admitting he didn’t want to continue to “throw rocks at the Democrats,” Findley said the polarization is much more than it needs to be or should be.
“It’s unfortunate, because we’re there to do the people’s work. We should be able to do it — look at other viewpoints, make a decision and move on,” he said. “But the supermajority is not interested.”
Findley feels the GOP was forced to leave Salem, so that the so-called carbon tax is not able to “remove wealth from some while distributing it to others.”
He says he’s introduced an amendment to put it the voters three times, and it’s been dismissed every time.
The bill would impact “every corner of the state for the next 30 years,” he said, emphasizing that is why “voters have a right to make a decision.”
Furthermore, Findley says, SB 1530 will have a dramatic impact the way it is written.
“If implemented, there is no off-ramp. Once you start the process, it cannot be stopped. … We need to deliberately look at it before it moves forward.”
There is still much work to be finished this session, and Findley says he and his colleagues would like to go back in and do the balance of it. Instead, he said, the supermajority have put the cap and trade above foster care and funding bills.
Though Findley has not been privy to the conversations, he said there “is a lot of dialogue occurring” between Minority Leader Sen. Herman Baertschiger, Courtney and Governor Kate Brown.
In contrast to the 2019 session, Brown has not issued an order to State Police this year to return missing lawmakers to the Capital to complete their work.
Unless the matter gets pushed to a vote of the people, Findley and his Senate colleagues do not plan to return to the session, he said.
“That’s our goal,” Findley said. “If they just refer it to voters, we’ll be back in a heartbeat — or to a committee to sit on the side. But this is our option: decorum.”