Senate leaders sending $3,500 invoices over walkout
SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Senate leaders say they are preparing to invoice 11 Republican senators for fines associated with a June walkout, after determining a plan to dock their pay wasn’t legal.
The invoices would total $3,500 for each senator. The total includes $500 per day for seven of the days Republicans refused to show up for a floor session, Oregon Public Media reported .
Carol McAlice Currie, a spokeswoman for Democratic Senate President Peter Courtney, said this week bills will be sent to each senator who missed work.
“If they refuse to pay, they will be sent through the regular debt collection process,” she said.
Dallas Republican Sen. Brian Boquist, who believes the fines are illegal, already sent a check to Courtney for $3,500 along with a letter indicating he was paying to allow him to “seek remedy in state and federal court.”
The walkout was a way to halt a vote on climate legislation. The measure aimed to dramatically reduce greenhouse gases by 2050 by capping carbon emissions and requiring businesses to buy or trade for an ever-dwindling pool of pollution “allowances.” California has a similar program.
Republicans called it a job-killer and wanted it sent to voters for final approval.
Democratic leadership said during the walkout that the plan had lost the support it needed among Democrats to pass and it died in the final days of the legislative session.
Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, indicated during the revolt that she’d seek to garnish lawmakers’ pay. Asked about the change from garnishing to billing, Currie told Oregon Public Media this week: “If anyone said that the Senate would be ‘docking Republicans’ pay’ for the walkout, they were in error. It’s not legally possible to dock them.”
The Office of the Legislative Counsel, which provides legal advice to lawmakers, declined to answer an inquiry on that matter, or to discuss what mechanism allowed Senate leadership in general to fine lawmakers.
Democrats have suggested there is precedent in other states for such fines.
GOP senators’ departure from the Capitol denied the Senate the quorum needed to conduct business. The 11 senators were not fined for the first floor session they missed, and Democrats canceled one planned session after they received threats from militia members, so the fines were only for seven days.
Republicans have also received scrutiny over how they plan to pay those fines.
On June 26, a coalition including labor unions, Basic Rights Oregon and Planned Parenthood, filed complaints with the secretary of state’s office and Oregon Government Ethics Commission. The complaints sought formal rulings that Republicans could not pay their fines using campaign money or a crowdfunding effort that raised more than $40,000.
State officials said this week that the complaints are still under review. Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, told reporters last month his members did not plan to use outside cash to pay the fines.
“We’re all using our personal funds,” he said.