Grand Bargain … Really?

The Legislature’s winners and losers

When the press reports that the Oregon Legislature adjourned sine die, it does not mean physician-assisted suicide by trigonometric function. Gov. Kitzhaber’s not that kind of doctor. Sine die is Latin for “without a day,” meaning in this case that the 77th session of the Salem Hot Air Society is done for this year, kaput. There will be an additional $1 billion for schools, some half-hearted PERS reform and no additional background checks for guns. Next session, next February, unless there’s a special session.

As always there were winners and losers in the process. Gov. John Kitzhaber 2.0 lauded the achievements of the Legislature — the additional school money, lowering health-care spending inflation, flat public safety projections for prison beds in the next five years, infrastructure projects with jobs and some PERS stability — but he also pointed to the failure to get additional revenue tied to some further PERS reform needed to “prime the economic pump.” He not only called it “unfinished business,” he said he’d call a special session of the Legislature if he can muster the 18 Oregon Senate votes and 36 House votes necessary for a revenue/PERS package. I think the governor had a good session and I hope he’s motivated to run again.

New House Speaker Tina Kotek had a pretty good session. She’s a tough negotiator. She kept her caucus together. House Minority Leader Mike McLane, on the other hand, found out what it’s like to be a Republican rookie with a whole bunch of dysfunctional deposed leaders in your caucus who lost their majority last election. That dude had a tough job.

I didn’t think Senate President Peter Courtney had a particularly good session, nor did Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli. Courtney got what he wanted, a state hospital in Junction City, but he couldn’t control his caucus enough to force the gun votes. Majorities in both chambers and we couldn’t get a background check vote? Really? Republican Sen. Bruce Starr, who ran unsuccessfully against Secretary of State Kate Brown two years ago, has already sent out his Second Amendment-defender fundraising letter to constituents. And he’s in a swing district! He’s also the only Senate Republican to vote for revenue increases, before changing his vote to a “no” when the bill was failing. Ferrioli was almost clownish. We toasted him at our last Hot Air Society beer meeting at Cornucopia (remember, we only toast bad guys) for complaining about a do-nothing session, when he was the biggest obstructionist in the building!

Our local legislators had a good session. House Majority Leader Val Hoyle had her speaker’s back; that’s her job and she did it well. I bet you won’t see her or Speaker Tina Kotek telling the press anytime in the near future that they have the votes prior to the next proposed revenue measure: Lesson learned — don’t trust a Republican on a revenue measure. Floyd Prozanski, Lee Beyer and Chris Edwards helped the Senate bring some bacon home to the district, along with good work by our House delegation, Phil Barnhart, Paul Holvey, Nancy Nathanson and John Lively. A billion more for K-12, $135 million for construction projects at the UO, $80 million for construction of the Oregon State Hospital campus in Junction City, $8 million for construction projects at LCC and $12 million for LTD to extend the EmX rapid transit service. (I love driving those 11th Avenue anti-EmX’ers businesses crazy. I’ve never set foot in an anti-EmX business and never will.)

So, in summary, Salem’s Hot Air Society won’t meet again until it meets again. In February if not earlier. I’ll keep you posted.

My head was not into writing a column this week, but I had to sine die with the Legislature. Jeannie and I are mourning the loss of a dear friend, Michael Convey, who died July 12. A former teacher at LCC, Michael was a master educator, a master craftsman, an incredible neighbor and friend. We’ve known Michael and his wife, Stevie, since I worked at DHS in the early ’80s. As we speak, I’m typing this column on the clear vertical grain Douglas fir dining room table he built for us 10 years ago. Countless years of kibitzing about politics, about the Ducks, the Giants, the 49ers and carpentry project after project. So funny. Such a clever man. And a good man. All our love to Stevie.

Peace. Out.