Oregon's Republican senators didn't return to work today, the day after Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) announced that House Bill 2020, the cap-and-trade carbon reduction bill, did not have the votes in his caucus to pass.
Salem sources say there is a trust-free negotiation going on now over the terms on which some GOP senators might return to provide a quorum. In the meantime, the clock is ticking inexorably toward midnight on June 30, when the Oregon Constitution decrees the session must end.
With all the focus on cap-and-trade, it's easy to forget there's a lot left to do in the current session, much of it far less controversial than climate legislation.
When the 11 GOP senators left the Capitol—and the state—June 20, their absence halted progress on more than 100 bills, many of them with bipartisan backing.
Here are five bills that matter to a variety of consituencies:
House Bill 2015: Allows undocumented immigrants to get drivers licenses. Although xenophobes don't like it, nearly every business group in the state wants it passed because they need workers.
House Bill 2164: Provides a $56 million earned-income tax break for poor, working families—which is particularly helpful to Oregon's poorest counties, all of which are rural.
House Bill 5019: Funds the Oregon Department of Forestry and its crucial fire-fighting operation.
House Bill 5024: Funds higher education, including Oregon State University's rural agricultural extension programs (think 4-H) and grant programs that allow low income students to attend college.
House Bill 5026: Funds the Department of Human Services, which oversees foster children and elder care. The bill adds 347 new caseworkers Republicans wanted.