"No experiment can be more interesting than that we are now trying, and which we trust will end in establishing the fact, that man may be governed by reason and truth. Our first object should therefore be, to leave open to him all the avenues to truth. The most effectual hitherto found, is the freedom of the press. It is, therefore, the first shut up by those who fear the investigation of their actions." --Thomas Jefferson to John Tyler, 1804.


Oregon House 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.

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