So Long, Clean Energy Jobs

HB 2020 'dead' declares Senate President Peter Courtney after Senate Republicans disappear

Eugene, Oregon, forest of trees and ferns

Who knew running away to Idaho could impact policy? Welcome to the Oregon Legislature.

Oregon Senate President Peter Courtney said today that there aren’t enough votes to pass House Bill 2020 and that the Senate must work toward passing 125 other bills.

The second walkout conducted by Republican state senators has possibly killed one of the biggest policies Democrats wanted to enact: a cap and trade policy that would tax CO2 polluters called Clean Energy Jobs. With the tax generated from polluters, the state would use it at first to offer incentives to have more energy efficient homes. In the long run, HB 2020 would allow Oregon to have more green jobs.

When Courtney told the Senate that HB 2020 doesn’t have the votes for the floor, climate activists turned their backs to him.

“I’ve done as much as I can, but this is a remarkable opportunity to finish our work,” he said.

State Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, tells Eugene Weekly that HB 2020 is indeed dead because there weren’t enough votes on the floor to pass it even with the absence of Republicans. Three Democratic state senators opposed the legislation because of the impact it could have on their district’s economy.

Brad Reed, communications director for Renew Oregon, says the three state senators he thinks were responsible for not supporting HB 2020 were Sens. Betsy Johnson of Scappoose, Arnie Roblan of Coos Bay and Laurie Monnes Anderson of Gresham.

Although Beyer says killing HB 2020 disappoints him, it is necessary to deal with the 125 bills, most of which are budget legislation, before the legislative session ends Sunday, June 30.

He does think that if climate advocates wanted to pass the legislation, citizens could put a climate bill on a future ballot. However, it would be much simpler worded legislation, he adds.

“There’s never an end. We can’t afford to quit,” Beyer says.

Reed says that he’s still hoping for a miracle that it’ll pass this year.

Renew Oregon, a clean energy advocacy coalition, brought in 40 to 50 youth to say thank you to Senate Democrats for sticking to HB 2020. However, the youth — and other state senators — were blindsided when Courtney said the bill was dead.

Reed says after Courtney’s announcement, Renew Oregon had a rally outside the Capitol to call for climate legislation, which featured Gov. Kate Brown.

Tera Hunt, executive director of Renew Oregon responded immediately after Courtney called HB 2020 dead, saying the Democratic Senate President failed Oregon’s children.

“This is the biggest failure of public leadership in Oregon in recent memory. After the Senate President promised a floor vote to make Oregon a leader in protecting its people from climate change, a vote on HB 2020 as voters demanded, he has gone back on his word,” Hunt said in a statement. “He’s allowed a minority of Senators to dictate how business is run in our government and members of his own party to hide from their constituents. This not only endangers this bill but the future of our representative democracy.”

Although Democrats have a supermajority in Salem, Republican state senators have dictated some of the biggest policies that Democrats promised voters. First, there was the walkout over the Student Success Act that would impose a tax on corporations with gross in-state sales that exceed over $1 million. Republicans came back after Democrats conceded on bills focused on gun safety and stronger vaccines.

The current Republican walkout focused on HB 2020 has been going on for six days and has caught national media outlet attention. Gov. Kate Brown called for the Oregon State Police to gather the rogue Republican state senators. Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas said in response that if police were going to get him, the police better send out armed bachelors to get him.