Writings and observations

Well, so much for the remarkably smooth Oregon session of ’09. Owing to a single flipped vote – that of Beaverton Democratic Senator Mark Hass – the Senate declined to pass a business tax package approved the day before by the Oregon House. Because of that, a second tax bill was table (alongside that first one). And because of that, the whole question of how to balance the state budget has been thrown wide open.

This wasn’t entirely a surprise (one reason, presumably, the vote was held until late afternoon). The debate wasn’t long (there was some but not a lot of Republican argument against), and during it, Senator Alan Bates, D-Ashland, warned that people were “teetering” and “I implore you, to vote for this bill tofay and the one following it. The state will go into chaos without these bills.”

Now, presumably, we start to find out what that entails.

It could mean, as senators got some indication, that the budgets are reopened and mass cuts ensure. Or maybe not. On Blue Oregon, a commenter remarked, “Hass just said he wants to send the corporate minimum back to senate revenue for a fix- they MAY not have the votes on the floor and might have to come back another day.”

Overall, the legislature may be here a few days longer than they had thought. But what direction this goes next looks up for grabs.

First big glitch in what had been a remarkably smooth-running machine.

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A good many of the arguments against Oregon’s Senate Bill 519, which has passed the Senate (and now goes to the House) and has turned into a real business-labor flashpoint, seem to revolve around something the bill doesn’t do.

One news report, for example, noted that “Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, said unions were trying to curtail the ability of employers to sit down with their employees to talk over issues that might affect the company. Ferrioli and others said the bill could be a particular hardship for companies that offer such secular services as house painting but make religious faith a central part of their mission.”

In considering that, take a look at what the bill does. Here’s the most central section:

An employer or the employer’s agent, representative or designee may not discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize or threaten to discharge, discipline or otherwise penalize or take any adverse employment action against an employee:
(a) Who declines to attend or participate in an employer-sponsored meeting or communication with the employer or the agent, representative or designee of the employer if the primary purpose of the meeting or communication is to communicate the opinion of the employer about religious or political matters;
(b) As a means of requiring an employee to attend a meeting or participate in communications described in paragraph (a) of this subsection . . .

The bill’s effect, in other words, isn’t to stop an employer from talking about whatever he chooses, or to block any kind of meetings or other one-on-one communications. What the bill does say is that if an employer-backed meeting is about politics or religion, the employee has the option of not attending, without risk of job loss or other disciplinary action. If it’s a one-on-one communication, an employee could walk away from it. Or not, at the employee’s option; employees can choose to attend (as many probably will continue to).

There is more to the bill, of course, mainly fleshing out that core point. But the essence is that people who rely on a paycheck shouldn’t have that dependence used as a force for religious or political indoctrination. Which, if considered in that light – as it only intermittently has till now – might throw a little different spin on a debate in the House.

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Amid a National Public Radio feature story this morning about “hooking up”, a point was made about the rising average age of marriage. A sub-point also emerged: Idaho was listed as having, on average, the youngest married couples in the country.

When we pulled the census stats on this and averaged marriage age for men and women, Idaho appeared to rank second (behind Utah) rather than first. (The average age at marriage in Idaho was 24.6 years for men and 22.8 for women, compared with the national average of 26.7 and 25.1.)

The rundown of states by marriage age, though, does match up remarkably well against red-blue measures. After Utah and Idaho, two of the reddest states, is Oklahoma, also among the most crimson. The red of the low-age top 10: Arkansas, Kentucky, Alaska, Wyoming, Texas, Alabama and Tennessee. All were McCain states in 2008.

At the other end of the list, oldest at marriage: the District of Columbia, Massachusetts, New York, Connecticut, New Jersey, Rhode Island, Vermont, Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Maryland, all blue states and (except Pennsylvania and maybe New Jersey) among the bluest. All went for Obama in 2008.

Oregon and Washington are close to the national average on marriage age.

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More sad media news, meta division this time: Lynn Siprelle’s excellent Oregon Media Insiders site, which we’ve referenced here periodically, is gone. A fine spot for keeping up to date with changes in Oregon news media, it will be missed.

There is, however, a new Oregon Media Forum, self-described as “an OMI expat community.” Set up in forum fashion, it seems equipped to pick up, in part at least, where OMI has left off.

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Off-year candidate filing is done in Washington, with basically no last-minute surprises. The primary election in August will skim off the top-twos in the competitive races.

For Seattle mayor, that presumably means incumbent Greg Nickels and Council member Jan Drago, though Drago’s path to an ultimate win (her complaint with Nickels has to do not with substance but with process, almost always a snoozer for voters) remains obstacle-ridden.

The King County executive race remains a lot more interesting, with the five expected candidates – two county council members, two legislators and a former TV news anchor – piled in. Polling seems to indicate that, on the basis of name ID, the former anchor, Susan Hutchison, might pull a first-place plurality win in August, but we’d guess she’ll have a harder time in the one-on-one to follow. Of course, there’s no clarity yet as to who that one will be.

And the engines rev . . .

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