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Changing the guard


Much has been written lately in the press about the Oregon Legislature’s upcoming 2018 session, as lawmakers, staff and lobbyists prepare to descend on the capitol in Salem for its February 5 onset.

But the big story of this short session is a situation that is unprecedented — there are going to be several legislators who have been appointed to their seats through a process involving precinct committee people and county commissioners.

Those recent appointments to vacant seats have been occurring in both the House and the Senate, for seats held by Democrats and Republicans, and from districts stretching all over the state, from the Portland metropolitan area clear to the Idaho border.

First was longtime Republican Rep. Vic Gilliam, who stepped down from his House District 18 seat in Marion County due to health reasons. He was replaced by former Silverton Mayor Rick Lewis.

Former Lake Oswego area legislator Ann Lininger, a Democrat, was appointed to a judgeship by Governor Brown. Her seat in House District 38 was filled by former lobbyist Andrea Salinas.

Republican Mark Johnson resigned as the state representative for House District 52 to take over as head of Oregon Business and Industry and was replaced by Hood River resident Jeff Helfrich.

Another Republican, John Huffman, gave up his seat representing Central an Northern Oregon in House District 59 for a position at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. He was replaced by Rep. Dan Bonham.

Jodi Hack took over as head of the Homebuilders Association, and the Marion County Board of Commissioners unanimously appointed fellow Republican Denyc Boles to fill her seat in House District 19.

Two Senate seats vacated simultaneously when Brown appointed Democrat Richard Devlin and Republican Ted Ferrioli to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council. Cliff Bentz was appointed to fill Ferrioli’s seat in the vast Senate District 30 that covers much of Eastern Oregon. But in so doing, Bentz had to step down from his seat in House District 60. The process to fill Devlin’s suburban Portland Senate seat will conclude soon. Lynn Findley was appointed yesterday to fill the HD 60 seat vacated by Cliff Bentz’s promotion to the Senate.

The loss of so many members is just the beginning of the brain drain coming to the capitol.

Oregon’s Legislative Revenue Officer for the last 20 years recently retired, and at least five House members with considerably seniority have already announced that they won’t seek re-election. Their districts cover areas as diverse as Medford, Clackamas and Lane counties and the northern coast.

Even assuming the extremely unlikely scenario that other incumbents don’t announce their retirements in the coming weeks, or that every incumbent who does seek another term is re-elected, the legislature has already lost several decades’ worth of institutional knowledge and will be losing many more by the start of the 2019 session.

(photo/Scott Jorgensen, showing the arrival of Bentz at the Senate.)

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