Here’s to Bad People

Hacking up my current hairballs of the week

Oregon daily newspapers are hardly worth reading anymore. The bias against public employees, the woeful reporting/analysis of the current legislative session by both The Oregonian and The Register-Guard is bloodthirsty and pathetic. Reporting last Wednesday, the most significant votes of this session — PERS reform and a $275 million tax plan — in their zeal to blast Democrats and Speaker Kotek, both papers lost sight of the pyrrhic nature of the victory the Republicans won in the opening skirmish.

The next day, the R-G headline screams, “Democratic tax plan scuttled.” The Oregonian is no better: “Democrats’ tax plan shrivels” (at least its male readers could relate). Why not lead with: “Republicans vote against PERS reform”? Or “Republicans unified against school funding, public safety and seniors and disabled”?

Please be reminded the Legislature has until July 13 to adjourn and House Democrats have already succeeded in getting a tax measure over to the Senate. Remember, that requires 36 votes and there are only 34 Dems. Not too shabby for “Speaker No.” Good job, Madame Speaker, thanks for having the “eggs” to expose the Republican attack on school funding, public safety, seniors and disabled, etc., and making them go on record with their protection of the wealthy and their unrelenting attack on public employees. I hope readers caught the irony in the R-G editorial headline that same day: “Where the money is: PERS” — a clever paraphrase from Willie Sutton, the bank robber. So, steal away guys, just call it what it is.

Ten years after my last session in Salem, I reflect on issues our current Legislature faces that didn’t even exist in 2003, like Facebook. The House passed HB 2654 that would bar employers from seeking access to the social media accounts of job seekers and employees. Apparently, the bill is a response to media reports of employers seeking access to the Facebook account of job applicants during the interview process. It’s unclear if the practice is widespread, or even still ongoing, but the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, wanted to make it clear that bosses couldn’t cajole their employees into granting them access to information posted online. The bill prevents bosses from requesting passwords from employees or requiring them to “like” them online. Thinking of some of my past bosses, not to mention countless Republicans I’ve served with, I’d be reticent to offer up my Facebook password — if I had a Facebook page. Too damn ugly. Scary. Make a freight train take a dirt road.

Let’s move from Salem’s Hot Air Society to its much older Lane County branch where our prairie schooners circle the Cornucopia brew pub. Basically bored out of our skulls on the lone prairie, our local Hot Air Society has a proud tradition around the campfire barstools: each time we meet, we raise our glasses and toast the really bad persons of the week. So please hoist a mug to our current hairballs of the week: The Association of Oregon Industries and Oregon’s branch of the National Federation of Independent Businesses, two lobby groups aligned with Karl Roves’ Crossroads GPS and the Koch brothers.

AOI and Oregon NFIB have officially weighed in against HB 2950. This bill simply expands the Oregon Family Leave Act to include up to two weeks bereavement leave, protecting employees from being fired for missing work when a close family member dies. Its sponsor, Rep. Shemia Fagan, D-Portland, told her House colleagues that seven years ago she had her best lunch date ever: Her dad drove from The Dalles to help her celebrate her admission to law school. Two weeks later he died of heart failure. She took a week off from work to take care of funeral arrangements in Eastern Oregon and grieve her father’s death. When she returned to work she was terminated.

This bill had plenty of public support, including hospice organizations, the Oregon Law Center and Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon. But, typically, AOI simply opposes any expansion of any rights to any Oregon worker. But Oregon’s NFIB specifically cited its continued opposition to Oregon’s expanded definition of family beyond federal law to include domestic partnerships, in other words giving gay Oregonians the right to take time off when a domestic partner dies. Really? Who says business doesn’t have a heart? Can’t you guys go find something helpful to do? Dirtbags. Cheers.