Oregon’s Democratic leaders have struggled to react to the failure of House Bill 2020, the carbon tax bill.
They tried to blame somebody else. They heaped blame on the walkout by 11 Republican senators. But Democrats didn’t have enough support in their own party to get passage in the Senate.
They also vowed to fine those Republican senators for the days they were absent and the Senate was in session. That has been just as much as a flop as the bill itself.
First Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, wanted to garnish the lawmakers’ pay by $500 for each day they didn’t appear. “The fines shall be collected by forfeiture of any sum that becomes due and payable to the absent member, including salary and per diem,” Burdick said on the Senate floor.
Democrats then backtracked, saying that would be illegal.
Instead, Carol McAlice Currie, a spokesperson for Sen. President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, said senators would be sent invoices — $500 a day for a total of $3,500.
“Individual bills will be sent to each senator who missed work,” she said.“If they refuse to pay, they will be sent through the regular debt collection process.”
Billing them for what exactly? Serving their constituents by trying to defeat a flawed bill? They were arguably working, just not doing the bidding of Democrats.
The invoice announcement was in early July. A month has passed, and nobody has been sent invoices. Joshua Sweet, the manager of the financial services department of legislative administration, said Wednesday he didn’t know how it was supposed to work. He and other legislative staff were still trying to figure it out. He said garnishment of legislative wages might be an option if people didn’t pay up, but he did not know.
The battle over the climate bill has been useful in highlighting just how weak a Democratic supermajority can be even with a Democratic governor. There’s no better example than Democratic legislators essentially trying to bill Republican senators for working to defeat the carbon tax bill.