Aveteran and highly skillful lobbyist of our acquaintance often said of legislative lobbying that nothing is over until adjournment. And the look in his eye added the punchline: . . . even then.
So we were a little less than shocked and bewildered when the party leaders in the Oregon House found a way to come together on the corporate-kicker-to-rainy-day-fund issue that has become so central to this year's session. Everyone had something to lose; the ability to claim a win here was a little better for everyone.
It may have been a little more important for the Democrats. Governor Ted Kulongoski had staked much of his renewed energy and momentum this year on its passage, and a lot of the prestige of the new House Democratic leadership was riding on it too. A referral to a popular vote might succeed in getting them a win, but at the expense of looking incapable in the Statehouse. A lot of Oregonians would, after all, like to see their legislature succeed at doing their job.
Republicans had reason for concern here, too. If this thing went to a public vote, their side would probably have lost and looked bad - a bad setup as they try to figure out how to regain a House majority next time. As it is, they got some concessions on the estate tax and on a small-business aspect to the corporate kicker: Concessions important for their side, but not so sweeping that they gut the core proposal. Everybody gave up something: The essence of legislative negotiation.
Senate President Peter Courtney remarked later at a press conference, "In my career as a negotiator, I don't ever recall an agreement of this magnitude being put together in such a short amount of time. In these negotiations each of us knew we had to find a way and reach out to each other in a very difficult time."
Otherwise known as legislating; which at times is the art of conceding a little while not giving up.