June is a tough month for Oregon legislators for a variety of reasons. There’s pressure to get out of the building by the 4th of July. Since it is a citizen Legislature, many of the members are missing work, and employers want their employees back. And, five months into session, members have listened to their colleagues’ positions and those of the other three caucuses ad infinitem and ad nauseum.
To make it worse, it’s a time when most committees have completed their work and are shutting down, leaving most members waiting on posturing caucus leaders trying to read political tea leaves to decipher the upcoming election year. In other words, it’s intellectual water boarding. Psychologically, you feel like you’ve been stuck much too long on a cruise ship off the coast of Borneo, besieged by pirates, stuck onboard with the faculty of Bob Jones University listening exclusively to Don Ho’s Tiny Bubbles and Forever in Blue Jeans by Neil Diamond. So your head really hurts, but you’re not hung over!
This underlying anger reared its ugly head last week during the House debate on SB 454, the bill that would require Oregon employers with 10 or more employees to provide paid sick leave. Earlier, during the Senate debate, Republican leader Tim Knopp predicted “this [SB 454] is going to kill job creation in this state.” During the House debate, Republicans tried every stall tactic and remonstrated vociferously about the Oregon financial crisis that would ensue if we dared to allow a low-income single mom at McDonald’s to get paid to stay at home with a sick child, for example.
Finally, Rep. Shemia Fagan, a Portland attorney, born and raised in Dufur, had had enough. Enough of your “zombie apocalypse” ranting, she told the naysayers on the House floor. Well, like I said, tempers are short these days, so the Republicans did what any dignified adults would do in this circumstance: They huffed off the floor and threatened to deny the House the quorum it would need to vote on the bill. They accused Fagan of impugning their dignity (as if one could insult something that doesn’t exist), the speaker told them to pack sand, and finally the bill passed.
All kidding aside, everyone in this state should acknowledge the excellent work done by Rep. Paul Holvey and Sen. Michael Dembrow in shepherding SB 454 through the process and on to Gov. Kate Brown’s desk for signature. Paul is one of the hardest working and persistent legislators I’ve known. I remember advising him a couple of years ago to quit fighting windmills with his futile efforts to end field burning. Look how that worked out.
House Majority leader Val Hoyle praised Paul for his hard work and his excellent floor speech, bragging that Oregon now has the most progressive legislation in the country on paid sick leave. And Paul deserves much of the credit for calmly addressing the merits of the bill, rather than succumbing to the same zombie apocalypse rhetoric that probably accompanied legislation that got us the 40-hour workweek and child labor laws 90 years ago.
Floyd Prozanski, Human Rights Violator
Val Hoyle, Human Rights Violator
By now you’ve seen these billboards that sprouted up in the last month or so. If your reaction was anything like mine, your first thought was: Damn, I kinda like those two progressives, how could I have been so blind not to recognize human rights violators in my own damn midst? The second thought was: Who’s behind this cute character assassination and the accompanying recall efforts? It’s the usual suspects, folks — Kevin Sterrett and the single-issue gun nuts who hate SB 941. (And no surprise that Art Robinson’s son, Matt, is coordinating the printing and distribution of the billboards.)
This is the same tactic gun nuts in Colorado used to recall two state senators who had the cojones to vote for firearm background checks in that state in response to the Columbine massacre. I applaud Floyd and Val and the other legislators targeted by these morons for having guts enough to do the right thing. Winston Churchill once advised a colleague: “You have enemies? Good. That means you’ve stood for something some time in your life.” I’ve always fantasized that Sterrett’s organization, Oregon Firearms Federation, would join forces with the Oregon Fisheries Underground Cable Corporation. Their acronym would be awesome and we could send them a message — OFUCC-OFF! Violate this!