The Capitol has become very quiet as most Republicans from both the Senate and House have left the building. The GOP senators began the walkout Monday, Feb. 24, after SB 1530, the cap-and trade carbon tax bill, was voted out of the Ways and Means Committee and scheduled for a Senate floor vote.
On Tuesday, the House Republicans joined them, which resulted in the GOP denying quorums in both the Senate and House chambers.
I believe the walkout over the cap-and-trade bill could have been avoided. I introduced a compromise amendment to the House version of the cap-and-trade, HB 4167. My plan would lower the state's carbon output while incentivizing individuals and businesses to work toward carbon reduction without putting an undue financial burden on rural Oregonians. Instead of creating an additional bureaucracy to implement the carbon legislation, my proposal creates a carbon sequestration investments fund and commission.
The commission members would be Oregonians, appointed by the governor, and would award grants for programs, projects and activities that support innovations in research, science, technology and natural resource management for carbon reduction. Grants could be awarded to businesses, schools and even individuals.
I worked with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to come up with this amendment, and I know it had bi-partisan support. Unfortunately, my amendment and the other amendments proposed for HB 4167 were, in my opinion, never seriously considered and my Republican colleagues felt it was necessary to leave, to block a vote on a cap-and-trade bill they could not support.
Unless we have some Republicans return to the Capitol, we have many issues we cannot address this session. When we began the session, we received the positive news that Oregon's tax revenues had exceeded the economist's projections. We were taking a close look to determine if some of Oregon's most critical needs would receive funding. It's disappointing to me that health care, homelessness, affordable housing and shoring up the financially troubled Department of Forestry are all issues that may have to wait either for a special Session or the 2021 Session to be addressed.
But I was heartened when Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland, extended courtesies to House Democrats on Wednesday.
"It is because of all of you that we have passed historic funding for our public schools, expanded access to health care, protected the rights of every Oregonian, and made progress on our state's affordable housing crisis," Rep. Nosse said.
While legislation is currently not moving in either chamber, my office is here to assist my constituents. If you need help on a state issue or have a concern regarding a state agency, contact my office and we will see what can be done.
Rep. Brad Witt, D-Clatskanie, repre-
sents House District 31. He can be con-
tacted at [email protected]
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