The Legislature’s Unfinished Business on Climate

Oregon’s work on cap-and-invest is not done

By James Manning

Out of more than four million Oregonians, 90 of us are blessed and fortunate to serve our fellow citizens in Oregon’s Legislature. We swear an oath to serve. We strive to move our state forward and do the most good for the most people. Our representative democracy only works with mutual trust and dedication to the job. Eleven of my Oregon Senate colleagues broke that trust.

Twice this year, Senate Republicans left the capitol to stop the Legislature’s work. The narrative that their voices weren’t heard is a false one. I can tell you firsthand, a vast majority of bills passed with bipartisan support. Even the more-divisive bills incorporated a lot of feedback from my Republican colleagues before receiving a final vote. 

Some bills I worked on didn’t make it. It’s frustrating. I understand what it means to argue for something and have it come up short. Yet I keep coming back to debate for my values and constituents. Good ideas win out when you participate in the process and make a strong case. 

In public service, people depend on you. You have a duty. Service has been my entire adult life. I protected people as a law enforcement officer, and I served more than 24 years in the U.S. Army. Now I proudly represent the people of Eugene, Junction City, Santa Clara and places between. Whether it’s a good day for my priorities or not, I show up to serve. Fleeing the state and shutting down the government stops the rest of us from serving our communities. 

Those senators absconded twice this year, once to block a historic investment in public education and the second time to stall a clean air and climate protection bill. Oregon’s children were on the unfortunate end of these walkouts. In both cases, we’re asking large corporations to pay their fair share and take responsibility as part of our communities. The Student Success Act passed and The Clean Energy Jobs bill will return. 

I represent many Oregonians: wealthy and poor, rural and urban, with different backgrounds and experiences. I’ve heard passionate arguments from both sides about the cap-and-invest proposal. What struck me through many conversations with constituents is some are not receiving accurate information. My colleagues and I must communicate to our communities what’s fact and what’s fiction. Some are instead bringing D.C.-style politics to Oregon — stoking divisions and anger instead of educating.

Oregon must do our share to combat climate change because it is already harming us. Lane County was hit hard this spring by stronger than usual storms, and scientists tell us such storms are the result of a warming world. The cost to our communities, health, economy and families from worse droughts, wildfires, heat waves and extreme weather is extremely high.

I wouldn’t support a bill that “destroys” rural communities. That’s rhetoric, not facts. The cap-and-invest bill invests in rural communities, more per person than in cities. My colleagues worked hard to make sure all of Oregon would benefit and the transition to clean energy in our state would be smooth through protections in the legislation. 

This program is designed to reduce Oregon’s climate change pollution while growing the economy. A nonpartisan report found the program will create an estimated 50,000 jobs by 2050, across sectors like construction, manufacturing, engineering, sales, transportation and more. Renewable power saves businesses and people money, which they can reinvest in their local economy.

Cap-and-invest is tried and true. Ten U.S. states and several Canadian provinces have used it for years, and even China is using it. While the same fears surfaced in other places before adopting the program, a history of success tells us Oregon will benefit like those other places have. 

Our work on cap-and-invest is not done. I support Gov. Kate Brown carrying this effort forward to complete our unfinished business this year. It will take a combined effort from the governor and Legislature to make Oregon a leader in combating climate change and transforming our economy to run on clean energy. Oregonians deserve us all to show up, serve and be part of the conversation. The future of our state and our children depend on it.  ν

Sen.  James Manning Jr. is a Democrat from Eugene representing District 7 in the Oregon Senate. 

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