No Special Session!

Republicans are obsessed with the governor’s race

Who could have imagined that when Barnum and Bailey closed their tents for good last month in New York that they would ship their leftover elephant effluvia and donkey dung to Oregon’s capitol! Circus Maximus! I say just send ’em all home and save the per diem. 

 Oregon Republicans are obsessed with waging the 2018 governor’s race right now during the regular legislative session. They’ve ceased all efforts to negotiate with Kate Brown, or any damn Democrats for that matter. The $1.4 billion dollar budget hole, the transportation plan, and that annoying Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) problem will remain unfixed when the Legislature sine dies around July 10. 

 Democrats, unwilling to force the Republicans to vote on these hard issues, are lamely suggesting a “special session.” Remember Gov. Barbara Roberts opening a special session to discuss a sales tax in 1992 and Speaker Larry Campbell shutting it down before the lights even got turned on? Or the five special sessions that were held in 2003?

 The point is you can’t have a special session without a plan. Republicans don’t have a plan. Their allies, those supposedly “moderate” corporations who defeated Measure 97 but promised to participate in a revenue discussion if it failed, apparently don’t have a clue. The building is dead silent. Republicans are still using the clean fuel issue from 2015 to dodge any meaningful negotiation on the budget or transportation. And PERS is so impenetrable that the business community now wants Republicans to focus on attacking public employee collective bargaining on health care benefits instead.

 This 2017 session will be remembered as a governor’s race overwhelming the legislative process to produce a stalemate. The 2018 Republican gubernatorial candidate will then cite Kate Brown’s inability to lead based on her failure to get anything done.

 Bend Rep. Knute Buehler is already running against Brown and pissing on Democrats at every opportunity. As Steve Duin recently pointed out, Buehler has spent more time this session whining about life jackets on the Deschutes than addressing the damage Greg Walden and congressional Republicans are doing to deny Oregonians benefits under the Affordable Care Act. Odd behavior from a physician.

 Others believe Dennis Richardson will be in the governor’s race, and he could probably beat Buehler in a primary. The crafty slimy secretary of state is getting his headlines these days by — surprise, surprise — investigating Medicaid fraud! This from a former state rep who never once voted for adequate funding for seniors and the disabled, and who wanted to eliminate pre-natal care for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) mothers. Yeah, that guy. Of course Dennis will find some evidence of fraud, because there are not enough resources provided to Medicaid programs for adequate oversight. Duh! Victimizing the poor is not exactly a new Republican strategy; just ask Paul Ryan and Greg Walden.

 I hope Democrat leaders, Speaker Tina Kotek and Sen. Peter Courtney, will not resort to throwing in the towel, producing an unacceptable budget, referring a failed constitutional tax measure for a special election this September/November, and leaving Salem. Get the Republican legislators on the record now with their votes. 

 For example: Let’s get Ashland’s new state senator, Alan DeBoer, on record with some votes. He’s quoted as saying he might support a gross receipts tax for education. Make him vote! If he votes yes; great. If he votes no; then he can explain to all those fine constituents in Ashland why he can’t support adequate funding for public education or Southern Oregon University or adequate medical benefits for seniors and the disabled. This Ashland seat was Democratic before the legendary Doc (Alan) Bates passed away. Make DeBoer vote!

 The only (dry) bright spot in this circus are three stars from Eugene: Reps. Nancy Nathanson and Phil Barnhart and Sen. Floyd Prozanski. In my view they are the unsung heroes of this otherwise truly historic do-nothing 2017 session. 

 As Joint Ways and Means co-chair and House Revenue chair respectively, Nancy and Phil have done us proud. Undaunted by the dysfunctional politicians surrounding them in Salem, and without significant Republican cooperation, they have fashioned a post-BM97 tax plan for Oregon called the Oregon Education Investment Initiative. 

 And Floyd just keeps plugging patiently along as Senate Judiciary chair. His work on advance directives, on grand jury improvements, and on long-term disability and injury tort reform continues amidst the chaos. 

 I am enjoying life with my two new knees and my new dog, Bernie. I’d tell you about the rattlesnake we met, but I just ran out of space … stay tuned.