Bentz returns from Idaho exile
SALEM— At least one Senate Republican has returned to Oregon.
Sen. Cliff Bentz, R-Ontario, confirmed Thursday afternoon that he had returned home. The state police had been called off, he said.
Oregon State Police Superintendent Travis Hampton declined to comment on whether police had been called off. Gov. Kate Brown's communications staff did not return requests for comment.
Bentz declined to say when troopers had been called off, but said he was assured he was safe to travel back into the state without the prospect of being confronted by police.
He said he did not know if any other 10 Republican senators had also returned to Oregon. They left the state after Brown authorized the state police to find the missing senators and return them to Salem.
Senate Republicans left the state June 20 to deny a quorum to stop the Senate from voting on a carbon pricing proposal. On Tuesday, Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, announced Democrats did not have the votes to pass House Bill 2020 anyway, and that it was dead.
Bentz said the caucus would have a conference call Thursday afternoon to discuss whether two or more senators would return to the Capitol to provide a quorum so the Senate can get to work passing bills. The 2019 Legislative Session ends at 11:59 p.m. Sunday, and there is a glut of policy and budget bills awaiting Senate votes for final passage.
Bentz said the caucus is divided on how to resolve the walkout. Among discussion topics is whether Republican senators are willing to vote on policy bills, or just budget bills.
"It's safe to assume everything has been discussed, but no decisions have been made," Bentz said.
The Oregon Capital Bureau called the other 10 senators but did not reach them.