When I took my oath of office to serve in the Oregon Senate, I vowed that I will show up and represent my constituents to the best of my ability. Each one of my 29 Senate colleagues swore the same oath.
But instead of voting on a climate action bill, eleven Oregon Senate Republicans have abdicated their duty to the people and run away from the Capitol. They have shut down our legislative process and left critical budget and policy needs hanging in the balance.
This is the third time in the last ten months that the Senate Republicans have walked out on their jobs, leaving the rest of the Senate unable to convene and work on their constituents' priorities. Their first walkout was over school funding and now it's about climate action. What will be the subject of the next walkout?
These walkouts are an attack on democracy itself.
Can you imagine if this was the way we conducted business in our community? Corporate and union boards, school boards and city councils, even local nonprofits have board meetings — they wouldn't tolerate their leaders simply refusing to show up. And neither should Oregonians.
As an elected school board member, there are times when I don't get my way. But I show up to meetings, make my case and vote "no" if I can't support a policy. I show up because I have a responsibility to serve the community and respect the democratic process that elected me to serve our children.
In the last two elections, voters elected 30 state senators to serve Oregonians in the legislature. Many Senate Democrats ran on a platform of taking bold climate action to protect our future and improve air quality and health outcomes.
It's time to take climate action, and we have a strong mandate from the voters to pass SB 1530, the Oregon Greenhouse Gas Initiative. From our warming coastal waters to devastating floods in Umatilla, it's becoming more clear that the climate crisis has arrived in Oregon. We must take action to stop the increase of wildfires impacting the air our children breathe and putting lives at risk. We must stop the reduction of the snowpack we depend on for drinking water and nourishment of our crops.
The Oregon Greenhouse Gas Initiative puts a cap on emissions and creates a system of investments to transition Oregon to a clean energy economy. Oregonians across the state are calling upon the Senate to pass this bill now before the climate crisis takes an even more disastrous toll on the beautiful place we call home.
We must stand firm in the face of obstructionism. Senate Republicans know that we have crucial work to do for human services, health care and housing, and yet they have brought our democratic process to a halt. It's time for them to come back and allow the will of the people to be delivered.
Serving as state senator is a job I take seriously. I view it as a great honor and a great responsibility. Walking out on the job is irresponsible. Shutting down democracy is irresponsible. Accepting a paycheck while refusing to work is not only irresponsible, it's unethical and it's disrespectful.
I respect this institution, and the honor bestowed upon me by my constituents. I will show up for work every day of the session and any day I am called upon. I am confident my Democratic colleagues will do the same. I am committed to my job and committed to Oregonians. I am committed to my oath of office.
Rob Wagner is a state senator representing District 19 and chair of the Lake Oswego School Board.
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