Democratic senator Laurie Monnes Anderson was the deciding factor the last time Oregon tried to pass cap and trade, and she won’t commit to reading the bill this time around.
To conservative lawmakers who walked out on the HB 2020 cap and trade bill last year, Oregon Democratic senator Laurie Monnes Anderson might be seen as an ally in desperate times.
To climate change activists, such as the Oregon League of Conservation Voters, she has gotten more chilly reactions, with the group writing that Monnes Anderson had “Sold us out.”
The senator, who represents Gresham, declined to vote for HB 2020 in the last legislative session, effectively killing the landmark bill that would have placed a cap on greenhouse gases and required businesses to acquire allowances for every metric ton of carbon emissions they produce.
Without her vote, the Democrats didn’t have enough support to pass the controversial legislation. The vote never came to the senate floor.
Monnes Anderson, who used to work as a public health nurse, was criticized for not thoroughly reading the bill the first time around, as well as holding private meetings with Boeing representatives, who opposed the bill, close to the final vote.
When pressed, Monnes Anderson would not commit to reading the cap and trade legislation this time around either.
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Cap and trade is expected to reappear in the short legislative session, which begins February 3. It contains a few changes that are intended to make it more appealing to conservative-leaning Democrats.
But if Democrats cannot count on support from Monnes Anderson, there is little margin for error. Despite the balance of power being in Democratic hands, there were too many defections last year, including conservative-leaning Democrats Betsy Johnson and Arnie Roblan, to pass the bill.
With various global warming-related thresholds being exceeded every day, and Oregon ecosystems changing, activists around the world advise urgency to passing legislation.
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“My goal with the [no vote] was to get Republicans back into the building,” says Monnes Anderson, referring to the infamous Republican walkout last legislative session when conservative lawmakers stayed away from the Capitol to stall legislative proceedings.
She says that getting Republicans back in the building meant that more legislation would have been able to get done.
This means that if Republican lawmakers stage a walkout again, no matter what is in the bill, it could lead to a second failure.
Jim Moore, professor of politics and government at Pacific University, says it is possible for cap and trade to pass without Monnes Anderson’s support, but the new bill has a provision designed to court her.
“With the apparent support of fellow Democrat Arnie Roblan, it appears that Monnes Anderson’s support will not be needed to pass cap-and-trade. However, some of the changes in the bill were designed to get her support — they help Boeing,” says Moore.
“Her vote will be closely watched and she will be lobbied by both sides,” he says.
A specific exemption for Boeing, which provides a steady amount of employment in Monnes Anderson’s Gresham district, will likely be included in the bill.
Monnes Anderson says she could not go on record with what precisely would need to be present in the bill for it to gain her support. She says she is encouraged by some of the timetable extensions she has seen, which mean some of the cap and trade regulations will not go into effect until 2030.
“I take every vote very seriously,” she says. “I definitely want to address carbon emissions, and I hope we get a bill that does that.”
She cited high utility costs for grocers and manufacturers as one of her reasons not to vote for the landmark legislation.
But if too many exemptions are added, especially for large polluters, conservation groups might decide the bill is not worth passing in the first place.
“There’s really nothing I can say one way or the other until we know what the amendments are,” she says.
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