Despite having a Democratic supermajority, the Oregon legislature once again failed to pass a controversial climate bill after similar efforts ended last year in dramatic fashion. The short session promised to be busy with more than 250 pieces of legislation introduced. Five weeks later, the session ended with only three bills passed, costing taxpayers an estimated half-million dollars.
As the climate bill (SB 1530) moved through the legislative process, Republican lawmakers again walked out of the Oregon Capitol building, depriving Democrats of the necessary quorum to vote on the bill. The climate bill would have introduced a cap-and-trade system creating an overall cap for emissions in the state that would lower over time. While Democratic lawmakers made certain concessions to win over Republicans, the main sticking point was Republican insistence that the bill be referred to the voters.
Republican leaders proposed to come back on the last day of the session if any vote would be limited to emergency budget bills, which Democratic leaders refused. Many bills with bipartisan support died as a result.
Lawmakers have initiated discussions to call for a special session to pass some budget bills. As for state climate policy, it is unclear what comes next. In the absence of any legislation this session, Governor Kate Brown has announced an intent to take executive action, although the framework remains to be seen. Oregon voters are also likely to be presented with climate-change related ballot measures in November.