Let the people decide

Once again proposed cap-and-trade legislation has led to a walk-out and no-show of Republican legislators, denying a quorum in both the state Senate and the House of Representatives.

These legislators mostly represent the rural areas of Oregon, whose residents say they and their businesses will be hurt by the proposed legislation. 

Senate Bill 1530 would set limits and shrink the state’s greenhouse gas emissions in a move to address global climate change. Some reports say that Oregon contributes a very small percentage of emissions, making the current proposal inconsequential in the overall aim of reducing greenhouse gases.

Opponents of the bill say it doesn’t make sense to disrupt life as rural Oregon knows it so that residents of the state’s largest cities can feel good about doing something about the environment. As is generally the case, rural Oregon and city Oregon are talking past each other. City Oregon has a population that is more liberal than their fellow state residents. Oregon’s large cities elect the Democratic legislators that comprise supermajorities in the Senate and the House. 

Until Republicans can capture some of those city and suburban seats and get past this suspermajority era in the legislature, the Democrats will continue to push through bills that are anathama to rural Oregon.

The tactic of denying a quorum in either of the legislative chambers has been used before here and in other states. It worked last year when Republican Senators walked out over cap-and-trade in 2019. They used the only weapon in their arsenal. It is politics, but it is this kind of politics that make many citizens dislike officerholders.

The main problem for the short legislative session (which is mandated for 35 days only) is that other important issues will not get the hearings they need, including providing emergency relief funds for victims of the recent flooding in Umatilla County.

The best course of action is to drop the cap-and-trade bill for now, address it again in 2021 when there is time to hear from proponents and opponents alike and then recommend the issue to the voters.

Cap-and-trade is too contentious of an issue and a potential disaster for rural Oregon not to let the voters make the final decision. Waiting to let voters to decide the issue in the November 2022 general election is not too much to ask. 

Debating a re-introduced cap-and-trade bill in January 2021, hearing the same arguments pro and con doesnt’ matter. Yes, legislators are elected to do the people’s business. Some issues—such as cap-and-trade—are so big and complex and affects so many lives, that getting assent from the governed is warranted.

Let the people decide.