Salem Moves On

But turkeys lurk in proposed legislation

The mood was still somber in Salem this past week. John Kitzhaber’s gone, Kate Brown’s sworn in and the political landscape of Oregon settles in after the tsunami. Last Tuesday I took a bottle of Wild Turkey, a copy of my Feb. 12 EW column and my retirement announcement over to the Capitol. I knew I wouldn’t see John so I searched out one of his closest companions over the years, a state trooper from the Dignitary Protection Unit. We reminisced about John Kitzhaber’s parents, Annabel and Albert (my constituents when I served) and his son Logan and how life had changed over 20 years. He reflected on how John told him he was hanging up his political spurs two years ago, until a certain force in his life urged him to run again. Legacy and loss.

I had dinner with House Majority Leader Val Hoyle on Wednesday and she was still trying to shake off the blues and examine what’s changed and what hasn’t. It appears Kate will be a careful, steady-as-she-goes captain of the ship of state. She brought Brian Shipley in as her chief of staff, a smart, seasoned veteran of the Legislature; but she’s also retained Dmitri Palmateer, John’s former deputy chief of staff and a former staffer for Sen. Jeff Merkley, well respected in the building. She appointed her deputy at the secretary of state’s office as a placeholder SOS and announced she’d choose her successor by March 7. Which leads us back to the question of what’s changed and what hasn’t. Who does Kate replace herself with?

House Speaker Tina Kotek already announced she’s not interested in the SOS position at this time because of the need for leadership and continuity during the current legislative session. Portland’s Diane Rosenbaum, the Senate majority leader, has indicated her interest, issuing a press release about the same time Kate was getting sworn in. And, our own Val Hoyle is also interested, although she’s expressing that interest more subtly. Stay tuned.

In her first press conference as governor, Kate told the Legislature to move forward, and they did just that. Senate Democrats passed SB 324, lifting the sunset on Oregon’s low-carbon fuel program, against unanimous Republican opposition. The angry debate lasted almost four hours; Democrat Lee Beyer described it as “political theater.” And the Senate Dems, with two Republican allies, passed a bill to dissolve Cover Oregon, moving Oregon’s Obamacare oversight to the state agency that handles most insurance programs, the Department of Consumer and Business Services.

The House Rules Committee moved HB 2177 to the floor for a vote this week, the motor/voter registration bill, against unanimous Republican opposition. We’re the only state in the union proposing such a measure. Dems obviously believe it will help them at the polls with possibly 300,000 new voters.

As the deadlines for submission and passage of bills out of committee approach, I’ve seen a couple of turkeys we ought to keep our eyes on. My Beaverton friend Rep. Tobias Reed apparently has too much time on his hands; he’s proposing a bill to direct the Department of Transportation “to study development of uniform speed bump height and markings.”

On his way out the door, the former governor proposed HB 2401, which would tax bird feed and devote the revenue to bird conservation, proving once again, as Grattan Kerans once told me, “Democrats will tax anything that moves!”

SB 176, sponsored by Sen. Brian Boquist, a Dallas Republican, requires a “court of this state may not consider Sharia law in making judicial decisions.” Whew, that one comes just in time. Our Oregon Supreme Court is full of suspect characters, and I just read where SCOTUS has six Catholics and three Jewish members! Sharia, indeed? I’m more worried about the Baltimore catechism!

Even my buddy, “Pretty Boy” Floyd Prochoiceski, has a Golden Gobbler nominee: SB 461, sponsored at a constituent’s request, would allow a person “to get a replacement driver license or driver permit if person dislikes photograph on current driver license or driver permit.” Talk about vanity plates!

Not to be outdone on transportation policy, Sen. Jeff Kruse of Roseburg sponsored SB 420, which allows operators of motorcycles to pass vehicles in the same lane or between lanes during traffic jams or slowdowns. Floyd says he’s OK with the bill as long as it’s amended to include only Republican motorcyclists. Till next time.