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I was putting together one article, and stumbled on this topic instead. And I think it describes beautifully what the Independent Party is attempting to bring to the political table.

The term “Transpartisanship” has emerged to provide a meaningful alternative to “Bipartisanship,” and “Nonpartisanship.” Bipartisanship limits the dialogue process to two political viewpoints or entities, striving for compromise solutions. Nonpartisanship, on the other hand, tends to deny the existence of differing viewpoints in exchange for cooperation. Both the bipartisan and nonpartisan approaches can discount the multiplicity of viewpoints that exist, which often results in incomplete and therefore unsuccessful outcomes. In contrast to these, transpartisanship recognizes the existence and validity of many points of view, and advocates a constructive dialogue aimed at arriving at creative, integrated, and therefore, breakthrough solutions that meet the needs of all present.

The IPO doesn’t reject ideology or attempt to ignore the fact that ideology will always exist. In fact ideology is the root of many good and novel ideas and solutions. However, an idealogue – whether conservative or liberal – accepts that political critique must take place on the enlightened grounds of the search for human happiness needs based on the use of reason.

On the other hand, a politically orthodox person may reject compromise and even debate and discussion because they believe there is a transcendent order based on some higher moral authority, and to compromise that order – despite the well reasoned arguments of others – is not possible because reason can’t trump their belief and faith. There can be little compromise with a politically orthodox person.

Bi partisanship relagates the search for better government to a binary argument, where unique solutions are set aside as the two sides coalesce around the most common position. (or the position of the largest and most powerful within the coalition.) Regardless, it results in only two viable solutions.

Non partisanship must fail because it refuses to acknowledge that there are consequential ideological differences within our political system, and without honoring, acknowledging and making provisions for those differences, honorable compromise is unlikely.

The Independent Party, knowingly or not, seems to be a transpartisan political movement. Member surveys have identified four areas that have widespread support among it’s membership. Membership that includes voters from the liberal to conservative ends of the traditional spectrum.

Government has a vital role to play in the marketplace in protecting the little guy from the big guys (consumer protection)
Government has a vital role to play in economic development, but any government benefit to a business must return as much to the taxpayer as it costs. (Taxpayer Return on Investment)
We must reduce the power of money in politics. Campaign finance reform
We should increase job training and education to meet the changing needs of our economy.

By refusing to adopt positions on hot button issues, the IPO has rejected orthodoxy from the political right and left. The IPO doesn’t deny those are important issues to some of the politically orthodox. It just accepts the ideological divide on some issues and that enlightened reason won’t solve a disagreement based on political orthodoxy. But the IPO acting as transpartisan still understands our need to work together on solutions that we do agree on. The IPO doesn’t limit itself to exploring the Republican or Democratic solutions, goals, or ideology only. Campaign finance reform is more of a Progressive Party issue than a Democratic priority. And Taxpayer return on investment is closer to Libertarian model of refraining from interfering in the market through government action, than it is to the Republican platform of granting tax breaks to any big business that asks.

The IPO is an emerging major party. There should be no expectation that because it hit major party status in February 2015 that it also has the same funding, infrastructure and candidate pool that the other major parties have. Developing membership, local member infrastructure, candidate recruitment, and a political bench will take some time. So chillax for a bit and let things develop.

But, if the IPO is transpartisan, you should eventually expect to see non orthodox IPO candidates that span the ideological spectrum *. Candidates pledged to working together for the common good using enlightened reasoning. You should expect to see right of center IPO candidates in the red districts, and left leaning candidates in the blue districts. In fact, you could see a far left candidate as an IPO candidate in a deep blue district if the Democratic candidate there was seen as a TPP backing, CRC spending, Tax Break giving traditional Democrat.

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Harris

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The May, 2015 voter registration statistics were posted by the Secretary of State, and because of the IPOnormal May off year election inactive voter purges, the IPO numbers shrank. The IPO is now only 72 members above the Major Party status mark. Another month like May and the IPO will lose the right to be on the May 2016 primary ballot. Remember, the IPO opened it’s primary to non affiliated voters, so that means that if the IPO loses 72 members between now and August 15th, 2015, over 640,000 oregon voters, or about 30% lose the right to vote in the May primary.

Are The Democrats and Governor Brown, who passed the Motor voter law to get more voters registered concerned? Yes the are. They are concerned that the IPO will maintain major party status and are doing everything they can – even making league with their Republican Party opponents – to kill the IPO. And in effect, take a vote away from 640,000 Oregonians.

First the Oregon House Rules committee, chaired by a State legislator who thinks she should in charge of all Oregon elections, ambushed IPO leaders when she called a hearing – with less than 48 hours notice to the IPO – to examine major party organizations and how they engage their members. You can bet the Democratic and Republican party leaders were given plenty of notice of the hearing and subject matter.

That hearing was followed within 24 hours by a joint Democratic and Republican press release that claimed to prove that the IPO was a fake party. A March 2015 (!) poll paid for by the Democrats showed that over half of IPO members know they are IPO members. This actually disproves what Democratic operatives have been claiming for YEARS; that almost all IPO members mistakenly joined the IPO when they thought they were registering as not affiliated with any party. The Poll actually shows that only 24% of IPO members thought they were registering a non affiliated. No wonder the Democrats didn’t release this poll in March. The timing of the poll also shows it was commissioned shortly after the IPO reached major party status. No coincidence that.

The Democrats in particular are very concerned that the IPO could shake things up. Because right now things are working very well for them, and change brings uncertainties and unkowns. But IPO leaders and Democratic operatives have been aware of the dynamic the IPO could bring to Oregon elections for some time and how it could threaten the Democratic party’s special interests grip on power. Particularly the Public employee unions grip. And It’s why for the past few years as the IPO has grown, it’s the DPO that has become it’s main adversary.

Todays (July 3rd, 2015) Oregonian Editorial Board praised the IPO and encouraging non affiliated voters, and disenchanted voters of all parties to join the IPO in order to preserve the IPO’s major party status. It recognized that given the current state of the law, and with Democrats in control of the legislature, the IPO offers the only way independent voters can participate in the May primary. And make no mistake, in Oregon’s highly gerrymandered state, in 90% of al legislative races, and all of the statewide races, and all of the federal races, t’s the primary elections that decide who will be elected in November.

In fact, the OEBs argument on the importance of the IPO maintaining major party status was so compelling that several people who commented after reading the opinion volunteered that they had just registered with the IPO. And not one to ignore his own advice, the presumed author of the opinion, OEB Editor Erik Lukens, also posted that he had registered with the IPO to help preserve its major party status.

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Harris

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HB 3500 – is the symbol of the fight independent voters have been waging for respect. We’ve written about its real and symbolic importance to election reform before. The most current plot twist involves Sen. Betsy Johnson and Sen. Richard Devlin.

HB 3500 had it’s genesis pre session when Rep. Val Hoyle drafted the original version which was erroneously labelled “Hoyle’s open primary bill.” Though what it really did was allow “same day” primary election mail in voter registration bill for the Democratic and Republican Parties. It would have required that every major party primary Ballot be sent to all non affiliated primary voters, along with a party registration card. So if an NAV wanted to vote in May’s partisan primary election, they were forced to vote for and join either the Democratic or Republican Parties. It should have been called “Val Hoyles Democratic and Republican Voter Registration Drive” bill.

But Oops! Developments throw a monkey wrench into the plan.

In February the Independent Party achieved major party status. So sending all major party ballots no longer seemed like a good idea to Democrats and Republicans. Democratic insiders gutted HB 3500 and stuffed it with a provision to create a task force of 17 members who would study how to increase NAV voter participation in elections. So far so good. But That task force amendment never had a public hearing, no public testimony was given. No written testimony was allowed. It was rushed through the House Rules by Rep. Hoyle, then mysteriously rather than going to the Senate Rules where it normally would have gone and where Sen. Diane Rosenbaum could have fixed the bill by amendment, it went to the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on General Government.

That’s where the fireworks occurred this week.

But some on the Joint Committee were unhappy that of the 17 task force members, 12 would be appointed by Democrats and only 4 by Republicans. (The 17th, being the Secretary of State). But it was Betsy Johnson who pointed out it’s other big flaw. Even though there are slots on the task force for Republican and Democratic electeds (4) and for “representatives of major parties to be appointed by Democratic and Republican leaders (4 more), and for minor parties an non affiliate voters, and the League of Women Voters, and “an organization that does voter registration drives” (Bus project anyone), and even for a “Oregon Elector” (Mark Frohnmayer?) there is no slot for the third major party, the Independent Party of Oregon which has been at the forefront of election reforms and has over 100,000 members. The Libertarian (16,000 members) or Working Families Parties (9,000 members) and even the Progressive Green Party (about 2,500 members) – may be represented, but a major party making up 110,000 Oregonians is not included.

When Sen. Johnson raised some questions about why the bill didn’t include an IPO representative, The Chair of the Committee took a break and indicated they’d ask Val Hoyle or one of her staff to come down and explain the bill more and answer questions. But when the committee reconvened, there was no one from Hoyle’s office in the committee room.

Someone else had appeared though, and if you watch the video of the committee hearing below, you can see him sitting at a committee chair, staring at Sen. Johnson, then ambling over to take her seat. That’s Sen. Richard Devlin, using his prerogative as the Senate Leader to remove Betsy Johnson from the committee and taking her vote himself.

There would be no discussion, or explanation in public of why the IPO was not included on this commitee. Just like there would be no public hearings, or allowing any public testimony on the gut and stuff in House Rules. And when someone even asked to have an explanation of the bill from Hoyle, the order was out to Devline office. Go down to the hearing and roll her over.

But before she leaves, Sen. Johnson makes a powerful statement, indicting the drafters and backers of this bill as being anti democratic and unfair and she promised to vote against the bill when it reaches the floor. Sen. Johnson then storms out of the committee room and Sen. Devlin fills her seat.

The final vote was to pass the bill to the Senate floor by a vote of 5-2.

Voting against HB 3500 along with Sen. Johnson were; Democratic Representative Betty Komp and Republican Senator Doug Whitsett. Independent voters thank you and respect your fairness.

Voting for the bill that disenfranchises 110, 000 Oregon voters from having a representative on the election reform task force were:

Democratic Sen. Richard Devlin
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward
Democratic Rep. Nancy Nathanson
Democratic Representative Kathleen Taylor
Republican Rep. Greg Smith

Here’s another odd thing. They didn’t have to roll Sen. Johnson, the vote was 5-2 to move the bill. If Sen. Johnson had been allowed to vote, it still would have moved by 4-3.

So, why is it so important for the Democratic leadership to make sure the IPO not only isn’t represented on this task force, but that no public hearings are held. No written testimony is allowed, no discussion be allowed, and that if anyone wants to debate it and open it to public scrutiny, that they take swift, decisive and overwhelming tactics to quash it?

There is one possibility. An informed source stated that some high ranking public employee union political operatives have been heard to say that the growth of the IPO represents one of their biggest challenges. If so, then the obvious response from Democratic political operatives would be to crush any toehold the IPO had. Even if it meant disrespecting a senior member of your own caucus.

To watch Sen. Devline Roll Over Sen. Johnson, and listen to her statement, go to the link below. The events are near the end of the video. Hover over the last dot on the timeline and HB 3500 will appear. That’s the start of the sequence. Get some popcorn.

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Harris

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This year’s legislature has been good to lower paid workers.

Sick leave? check.

Enhanced retirement options for workers who don’t have retirement plan through work? Almost check.

And now Democratic House leaders are introducing a bill that will increase the minimum wage incrementally to $13.00 hour by 2018. (inevitable check)

And lets not forget the Affordable Care Act, assuring that low income workers are able to afford health insurance.

With this increases in minimum wage, paid sick leave, more retirement options, and health insurance guaranteed, the State of Oregon, along with the feds who are supplying the subsidies for health insurance, have “negotiated” some pretty solid contracts with America’s workers.

The 2014 union rate for the US was 11.1%. In Oregon it was quite a bit better at 15.6%. But still…..15.6% is pretty low historically.

Is there correlation between the shift of income from the middle to the top a and the shift of power between capital and labor because of the reduction in the power of private labor unions? And if so, will the enhanced employment requirements passed by the State Legislature help boost the middle class workers situation? Or will the enhanced benefits required by law now remove the reason for lower income workplaces unionize in the first place?

It’s an interesting development, Oregon State is legislating compensation packages for lower paid workers that are substantially better than the typical compensation packages available in other States. It’s acting like a union of last resort. The consequences could be positive – historically higher unionization meant more for the middle class. And it’s certainly better for the lower paid worker. More income to spend in the community. Better protections for workers. Healthier workforce. More incentive to work and save for retirement.

Or could it backfire? Perhaps, besides the obvious danger of a loss of jobs as employers find ways to trim operating expenses, it could also mean that the lower paid less skilled workforce, the one that could arguably benefit most from a strong private union, no longer has a reason to unionize. Of course, unions had been struggling to unionize low wage workers for some time.

Now, if we can just elect some responsible “union” leaders in 2016.

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Harris

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Political ambition over good policy?

How did the Knute Buehler bill allowing pharmacists to prescribe hormonal contraceptives (patch or pill) rather than requiring a doctors visit suddenly get unstuck? And why was it stuck in the first place?

After all Knute’s “free the pill” proposal making contraceptives more readily available to all women seems like a Democratic rockstar of a bill. Now we’ve heard that the price for moving the bill was a promise by Buehler to Val Hoyle that he wasn’t planning on running for Secretary of State.

If he hadn’t made that promise, it appears Oregon Women would be waiting another two years for increased availability and affordability.

Dan not so Meek:

Because of our State constitution Oregon is one of four state with no campaign contribution and spending limits. Yet Campaign finance reform is widely popular. Particularly among the Democratic progressive base.

Pre session then SoS Kate Brown drafted Senate Joint Resolution 5 (SJR5), which would refer Oregonians a State constitutional amendment allowing political contribution limits (Oregon is one of 4 States that have no legal limits on what you can give to a political candidate). But it’s stuck in the Senate largely because of the opposition of a single State Senator.

Though it’s well known that powerful Democratic financiers also oppose any limits on contributions and spending. But now its possible that should SJR5 die, a broad progressive coalition could be ready to file a petition asking Oregon voters to amend the Oregon Constitution allowing laws limiting both contributions and expenditures. A State “Move to Amend” initiative?

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Harris

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Some gun activists are pretty PO’d about the mandatory universal background check bill (SB 941) – and now law.. In April some Bill opponents announced that they would seek the recalls of Representatives Val Hoyle and Susan McLain, as well as Senator Chuck Riley. And today, BlueOregon reported that the same group was going to file a recall petition against Senator Floyd Prozanski, the chief sponsor of the bill.

How serious are these various recall efforts?

The Signature hurdle: First, keep in mind that the to get the recalls on the ballot, petitioners must submit about 3,000 signatures in the case of a Representative, and 6,000 signatures in the case of a Senator, within 90 days of filing their petition.

That’s a lot of signatures, and a short period of time. And my guess is that getting people to sign a petition to recall an elected so shortly after the election, and for the reason that they voted for a bill the elected always supported, could be more difficult than getting people to sign a petition for legalizing weed. (One possible exception – Rep. Hoyle seems to have been less than candid with gun activists when she sought their support during her election) But, there is just a lack of general widespread outrage. I understand that some people are very outraged, but the unhappiness with the background check law isn’t widely shared. Outrage that’s an inch thick and a mile deep could just as easily repel, not attract, widespread support.

The Money : The petitioners success will depend on organization. Which means money. Lets review ORESTAR and check on their fundraising and spending.

Rep. Susan McLain: Someone wasted $100. Because that’s all thats been contributed to this recall effort as reported by ORESTAR. The petition was filed April 15th.

Rep. Val Hoyle: Raised $4,596, and spent $2,814. Current balance $1,681. Sound more robust. But drilling down you see that $2,734 of the contributions was in kind. Setting up a website. (Note to webmaster. The recall Val Hoyle website doesn’t work on Chrome browser). Petition filed April 14th.

Sen. Chuck Riley: Petitioners raised $2,775, and spent $581. Balance of $2,193. $1,000 contribution made by Timothy R Knight, a Colorado gun activist who helped spearhead the Colorado gun law related recalls. Petition filed April 13th.

Senator Floyd Prozanski: No petition appears on ORESTAR as of today. So nothing to report.

The Petitioners are Serious, The Threat is Not.

The scatter gun approach of going after four officials when they lack sufficient financial support to fund a single recall, and the lack of public outrage that could make up for the lack of funding does not bode well for any of these recall efforts. The petitioners are 30 days into their 90 day campaign and have little to show.

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Harris

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In modern architecture its said the shape of a building should be based on its purpose. If a core purpose or function of Democracy is to allow all voters meaningful participation in elections, then the current form doesn’t follow function very well.

While the top two primary (Measure 90) failed in November by a wide margin, even many of its opponents said that there was some merit in trying to increase voter participation in primary elections. They also conceded there was some unfairness in taxpayers picking up the tab for the private party nominations for only the Democrats and Republicans. And let’s keep in mind there is nothing in the US or Oregon constitution that mandates our current political party paradigm. Nothing about political parties, or a two party system, or primary elections. It’s all a result of political decisions that can be altered given new facts and realities.

In an October 2014 City Club of Eugene Measure 90 debate Democratic Rep. Phil Barnhart claimed that “Rep. Val Hoyle has a bill on her desk right now that she’s working on to open up the primary process” That bill was apparently HB 3500 which was referred to in Salem as “Rep. Hoyle’s open primary bill”.

The bill was filed March 19th, 2015, and never gained traction. That’s largely because HB 3500 was anything but an “open primary” or any version of election reform. HB 3500 actually would have closed the Oregon primary even more.

As we go forward the question will be:

How committed are the Democrats to election reform?

If you look at recent history, the answer is: Not very. HB 3500 had a hearing but got little support. Largely we hope because it was exposed here on Oregon Outpost as not any type of open primary, but simply a same day registration bill for mail in ballots and a way to get NAV leaners to register as Democrats or Republicans. So when the bill lost support it was decided to set up a study group to consider election reform laws for the next session. A study group generally means, we don’t want reforms. But a study group it is.

The elephant in the room for Democrats is this. Democrats are very proud of their positions on democracy reform. Nationally, they oppose voter ID laws and celebrated the passage of Motor Voter and the expansion of voter rolls. All pro democracy – pro reform ideologically. But, like the Republican Party, are also protective of their prerogatives as a major party. Taxpayer funded nominations. First past the post voting to assure two party control. Closed primaries so their base determines their nominees. Add to that the Democratic and Republican Parties are shedding members like an Akita during a Florida summer, so making it even easier to participate in our Demoracy as a non D or R isn’t really in their best interest. Forcing voters to choose between being a Democrat or Republican is.

Add to that mix two other factors. Gerrymandering and Motor Voter and it becomes even more difficult for Democrats to reconcile their open democracy and full participation philosophy with their desire to maintain political power and control.

What The Democratic (and Republicans) have constructed in legal form through election laws is this. 85% safe Districts. Fewer D and R voters both in real numbers and as a percentage of total voters. A Huge number of new voters because of Motor Voter (Going from about 2.1 million to 2.9 million voters) most of whom will likely be Non affiliated voters, since they won’t be opting for party affiliation at DMV by filling out a registration card as is now required.

Look at where this leads.

The current voter registration is approximately:

Democratic 38%
Republican 30%
Non Affiliated 24.5%
IPO 5%
Other 2.5%

So today the D’s and R’s can at least say that currently almost 70% of all Oregon voters can participate in our primary elections.

But what happens with Motor Voter? Even now half of all new registered voters opt to be non affiliated. For those new passively registered Motor Voters who are initially registered NAV I think it’s fairly safe to say that 80% won’t opt to join any party. And, since the Democratic and Republican Parties are already seeing their market shares decrease (See analysis for who is leaving the D’s and R’s) those two parties will realize significant drops in market shares in total voters even without Motor Voter.

Generously assuming that 20% of the Motor Voters join a party, and they join in the current pro rata shares that exist now, in two years, you can expect the market shares to be something like this:

Democratic 31.5%%
Republican 24.5%
IPO 4%
NAV 38.5%

That would mean that absent election reforms, almost half of Oregon Voters won’t be able to participate in the primary election unless changes are made.

So here’s the political and philosophical dilemma for Democrats – who have the power to write and rewrite the election rules – face.

Do they keep the election rules as they are – which will further empower their party voters but assures that there will be even fewer contested elections and fewer Oregonians eligible to participate in our elections? Or do they follow their political philosophy of empowering voters and expanding our Democracy by reforming our election process. Even if doing so diminishes the power of their political base a sliver?

We’ll soon see. Because the makeup of the study group will tell us all we need to know. And recent history is not on the side of true reform. Word from a reliable source is that when HB 3500 was being drafted and shared with stakeholders, Democratic Leadership’s staff let it be known that the core purpose of HB 3500 was to figure a way to get NAV leaners and new Motor Voters to register as Democrats. Not to empower NAV’s. So just watch the membership of the Study committee. Will it be the most partisan Democrats and Republicans? Or will it include at least one member of Oregon’s third major Party, and a minor party representative, perhaps a well known academic, and maybe even some NAV voters?

We should hope for the best. There are plenty of smart, fair and honest people of all political affiliations who could be appointed to this study committee and who would propose options that widen participation, protect the prerogatives of the parties and further our mutual desire for better more cooperative and more consensus governance.

Or, It could be that depending on who is appointed, the best we can hope is that they don’t come up with yet another proposal that appears to be reform, but just more firmly empowers the Democratic and Republican parties at the expense of all Oregon voters.

If form really does follow function, then the results from the study committee will inform us as to what the Democrats truly believe the function of elections is. To elect Democrats? Or to assure a well functioning Democracy.

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HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

The following statistics are from the latest National Education Association report of 2014 for the 50 State plus the District of Columbia. (Except as noted)

Average US per capita income is $44,200
Oregon per capita income is $39,258 making it 34th of 51 States + DC
The US average paid in local and state taxes per capita is $6,414 which is 14.5% of total average per capita US income (NEA latest stats was for 2011-12)
In Oregon, the average paid in local and state taxes is $6,093 (26 of 51), and is 15.5% of total per capita income. ( NEA latest stats was for 2011-12)
K-12 school revenue in Oregon is $11,988 per pupil versus the national average of $12,357. Making Oregon the 25th of 51 and 97% of the national average.
The national average teacher salary is $56,610, while average teacher salary in Oregon is $58,638 which is 103.6% of the national average making Oregon 14 of 51 in highest salary. (Salaries don’t include other compensation such as retirement, or health insurance, so Oregon, with its excellent benefit program is likely in the top 6 States +DC for total compensation per teacher)
The average student teacher ratio in the US is 15.9, while Oregon has a teacher student ratio of 21.5, Number 3 highest of 51 and 135% of the US average.

While Oregon is slightly below average in per pupil revenue we are well below the US average in per capita income. So individual taxpayers are paying a larger share of our lower than average income in taxes than most other states in order to fund an education system that pays its staff some of the highest total compensation in the country. (Compensation includes not only salary, but retirement and health care)

About 85% of school spending is on salaries and compensation. High cost per teacher and lower than average financial support for schools can result in only one thing. Fewer teachers who try their best in crowded classes during fewer classroom hours.

While most people agree on the problem, not enough revenue to pay for more teachers and classroom hours, we don’t agree on the solution, which has to be either cost containment in individual total compensation, or increased revenue. The question is, what is more fair. Or what is the least unfair way to deal with the financial crisis.

I don’t think there is serious consideration of decreasing K-12 spending or teacher salary, so the goal of any changes should be to increase the number of teachers and/or the classroom time. Or hopefully both.

Oregon will adopt a k-12 budget of about 7.3 Billion dollars/ biennium. In order to get Oregon’s education spending to the US average it would take an additional 3% increase, or about $220 million per bi-ennium, or $110 million per year. But where would that come from?

Oregon individual taxpayers are already paying a higher share of their income in state and local taxes than average. So individual taxpayers can argue that they are doing more than their part already.

What about other sources of revenue? The Tax Foundation ranks Oregon as 12th best in business tax climate. According to that article Oregon has the fourth lowest overall sales tax burden nationally for businesses. So we have a relatively friendly business tax rate – with a lot of specific tax breaks and tax expenditures for businesses – and one type of common business tax that is extremely low. If were looking for additional revenue, absent complete structural tax reform, the source that could be deemed most fair would fall on those who already have a good deal. Additionally increasing an inordinately low business tax rate would have the least negative impact on Oregon business competitiveness.

We should consider imposing a gross business receipts tax which is in essence a type of sales tax on businesses. It would be very simple to adminster, and could be very modest, and not subject to special tax breaks for favored businesses.

Oregon’s GDP in 2013 was $220 Billion. In order to raise $110 Million per year for education, an educational fund specific gross receipts tax would only have to be .05%. For a business with $1 million in gross revenue it would cost an additional $500/year. Not insignificant, but at a cost of less than $42/month, one that should be manageable by a million dollar business.

Why should we increase revenues for k-12 at all you ask? Because it would be part of the trade off in cost containment.

Is it fair to take actions that control the costs of individual teacher compensation? Since Oregon is below average in per capita income, and above average in per teacher costs salary, I believe the answer to be yes. We can maintain a comparatively good salary for teachers, especially teachers with less than 12 years experience, and control costs in benefits where possible.

But, we have court decisions that have to be followed, and contracts that have not yet expired. So Controlling costs means changes in political and legal paradigms. You can’t simply wave a wand.

Ban teacher strikes. Oregon is one of only 12 states that allow teacher strikes. The other 38 states all believe that public education is a public necessity and therefor require other methods to resolve labor disagreements. We’ve shown in a prior article how States that allow teacher strikes tend to have higher costs, and worse educational outcomes than states that ban teacher strikes.

Banning teacher strikes would allow school boards, particularly those in smaller communities, a more balanced playing field when negotiation with local teacher unions. Don’t put a child’s education at risk over hardball negotiation tactics. Banning strikes doesn’t mean teacher unions don’t have power to negotiate forcefully or aggressively. It just means they can’t threaten to close schools as the ultimate threat in contract negotiations.

Make all Public teachers state employees. This would allow the State to negotiate the terms of all teacher contracts going forward. While this would take away some local control. It may the they type of control a school board would be happy to cede. The School Board could then concentrate on curriculum, facilities, and budgeting and not get into a personally disagreeable negotiation with teachers, who they rely on for expertise and input in improving the local schools.

Most importantly: Condition the imposition of the business gross receipts tax on using it to hire teachers. One problem with simply increasing a tax with the intent of using it for a stated purpose is ensuring that’s what it’s used for. Rather than having the gross receipts tax go into the general fund, it could be directed to a special teacher hiring pool. These teachers, hired by the state, would be state employees and would be assigned to school districts as teachers on loan. These teachers could even be assigned based on a districts pro rata share of students, or assignment could be conditioned on the School Districts average teacher salary. The lower the average salary in a district, the more State pool teachers they could receive. This would make some sense. If a district is paying its teachers less, then the teachers in that district should have lower student / teacher ratios. The extra State pool teachers would allow the district to relieve its teachers of some workload, thus making better work conditions the trade off they would accept for their lower salary.

With an increase of $110 million in revenue per year, the State could hire almost 1,300 pool teachers at a cost of $85,000/teacher. According to the NEA report, in 2013 Oregon had 26,418 teachers (It’s unclear if this is FTE’s or total teachers, including part time). So that modest gross receipts tax on Oregon businesses could increase our available teachers by at least 5%.

Outside the box ideas:

An ROTC for teachers: This idea isn’t a revenue idea. But there is a model for recruiting highly qualified candidates in a profession they may not otherwise consider. The Military pays for higher education through the Reserve Officer Training Corp as long as the candidates commits to serving in the military for a period of time after graduation. Oregon could consider a similar program for teachers. And at a little additional cost. If successful it would also end up producing more Oregonians with graduate degrees.

This program would offer any qualified undergraduate student who gets a teaching degree and teaches in a public school for five years two years of free tuition in any Oregon State university system graduate program. The “cost” to the State would be minimal. We already operate these schools, and adding a few more students would have a relatively small marginal cost.

Such a program should encourage high achievers who would like to go to grad school, but don’t have the finances, to consider a career in teaching to start. Hopefully, many of those teachers would even stick to the teaching profession. But even if they didn’t, the program should attract some dynamic and high level undergraduate students who may never have thought of a career in teaching, but would be willing to do it to finance their ultimate goal of a graduate degree.

It may be difficult, but there is a deal to be done here. We could Increasing revenues to get Oregon up to the national average. Out of fairness, the revenues would not come from individuals, as they are already paying their share, but through an increase in a business tax that is currently very low as compared to other states. This also has the benefit of having the least impact on Oregon’s economic competitiveness.

We should dedicate that increased revenue specifically to hiring more teachers making the greatest impact on student / teacher ratios and class room time.

Other non revenue/spending options that could also improve our school system should also be considered as part of the agreement to raise taxes and revenue. Particularly legislation banning teacher strikes and encouraging more students to consider a career in the teaching profession.

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Harris

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

Three recall efforts against Oregon State Legislators were announced this week. The recall was prompted by the Legislators’ support of SB 941 which requires background checks for all private gun sales in Oregon.

A Hillsboro man, Benjamin Busch, claimed to have submitted recall petitions against Rep. Susan McLain (D-HD 29-Hillsboro) and Sen. Chuck Riley (D-SD-15- Hillsboro). While The Riley recall petition was filed April 14th, 2015, as of April 17th, 2015, no recall petition had been filed against McLain. And in a direct challenge to the Democratic Leadership, a Gun shop owner from Junction City filed a recall petition against House Majority Leader Rep. Val Hoyle (D-HD-14-Eugene) on April 14th, 2015.

Rep. Hoyle is thought to be a target partially due to her courting the support of gun owners- or courting them to not support her opponent- in the 2014 general election. Her support of background checks could have been considered a betrayal.

The Washington County organizers of the recall for Sen. Riley also raised Senator Riley’s support for a more robust modification of Gain Share than is supported in Washington County. Riley’s position on Gain Share modification has raised the ire of the business community in his District and the Gun bill opponents believe their recall effort against Riley could receive financial and political aid from the Washington County Business community.

Short Takes:

Gun enthusiasts successfully recalled two state legislators in Colorado after Colorado had adopted a law requiring background checks and limiting the size of gun magazines.

According to a 2013 Pew Research Poll, 81% of all Americans support background checks for all gun sales.

Rep. McLain’s House District is part of Sen Riley’s Senate District. Riley’s position on Gain Share makes him more vulnerable than Rep. McLain. The fact that there is no recall petition against McLain yet could be an indication that the petitioners may be focusing their efforts on Riley hoping to raise funds from the business community in their recall efforts. And, remember Riley won the 2014 election for his seat by a mere 221 votes out of almost 40,000 cast while McLain won her district easily.

The other clue that Riley is a prime target for recall is the initial petition for recall named a local resident as Treasurer of the recall committee. Today an amended filing named Carol Russell as Treasurer. Russell, in spite of some serious allegations of civil (and possible criminal) fraud, is still a go to Treasurer for many Republican candidates and committees, and is also the Treasurer for the Hoyle recall committee.

Recall supporters will have to get almost 6,000 signatures of voters in their respective districts to force a recall vote for Riley, and almost 3,000 signatures to force a recall for Hoyle or McLain. While that may make Hoyle or McLain the easier target, paying for signatures is the smallest cost associated with a recall. The recall election is however, expensive.

The Oregon Constitution states that if a legislator is recalled, the office is vacant, and it’s filled in the manner provided by law. So if a recall suceeds the seat is considered vacant and the County’s Democratic Party would nominate three Democrats, forwards them to their County Commission, and the Commission would select one of the three. THe Washington County Commission is dominated by business conservatives. And the Lane County Commission also isn’t a hotbed of the tea party. So, it’s really unlikely the pro firearm rights petitioners are going to get their wish even if they are successful with the recall. They are unlikely to get a more gun friendly legislator. So the ultimate result won’t be a change in policy. It will just be more taxpayer expense to have what amounts to a gun enthusiast desire to punish a couple of legislators.

The real potential benefit in all this mess would be for Washington County government and the City of Hillsboro. Sen. Riley is the rare Democrat in Washington County who doubts the fairness or wisdom of Gain Share. It’s almost a sure thing that if Riley is recalled, at least one of the three candidates the Washington County Democrats name as his replacement (Most likely all three) would be a big supporter of retaining as much Gain Share money for the local governments as possible. (Think Tobias Read, type). And the Washington County Commission is sure to select the candidate who has the “best” position on Gain Share. Even if that candidate wanted to ban gun sales all together.

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Harris

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

Do you think that taxpayers have an obligation to pay for the food, shelter and health care for the employees of certain businesses in Oregon? Because that’s what happens when a business pays less to it’s workers than is required to feed, house and care for their workforce.

A new report by Oregon’s Legislative Revenue Office, prepared at the request of Republican Rep. Julie Parrish, really tells the story of how taxpayers subsidize low wage businesses. The report shows that if the minimum wage were raised to $15.00/hour an average minimum wage worker would see an increase in total compensation of only $49/month. Even though their gross paycheck would increase by almost $1,000/month. Why is that?

Because as that worker makes more money they lose taxpayer paid benefits that go to some low income workers. Housing assistance, Oregon trail card eligibility (food stamps), and other public benefits would all be reduced for that worker as the minimum wage grows. In fact, the study concludes that a single parent with two kids would lose $30/mo total income plus benefits if the minimum wage were raised to $13.10/hour. Which points out that in reality, workers may be better off if the minimum wage were left unchanged, or raised to at least $15.00/hour. Increases in the range of $12.00/hour would certainly help the teenager who lives with their parents, but would hurt workers who receive other public benefits and are arguably the neediest such as single parents with children.

Increasing the minimum wage reduces the amount of taxpayer benefits paid to the working poor, and shifts the cost of paying for a healthy workforce onto the businesses who use that workforce. A low minimum wage socializes the costs of business. A higher minimum wage allocates the costs to the users. And it’s perfectly fine if those businesses then pass that cost along to the consumer. That’s capitalism.

Increasing the minimum wage also promotes another conservative principle. Reduction in government spending and an increase in individual freedom. With an increased wage, workers should have more choices in their lives. Rather than housing vouchers to be used only for qualified residences, they could use their extra pay to rent whatever they wanted. Or they could live with relatives and pocket the difference. Workers would no longer be tied to the restrictions that come with how they may use some forms of government benefits. And of course, with less need for the administration of benefits, perhaps government could even be reduced in size.

And finally, as the study shows that there is very little net increase in total income for many workers after you take into account the loss of benefits, those certain conservatives who believe that low income workers don’t deserve any raise can take comfort in the fact that it isn’t really a raise for many, it’s just shifting the cost from taxpayer to the business that benefits.

Increasing the minimum wage is a much fairer way to allocate the cost of that business and is closer to what most conservatives want. Make those that use government services to keep a healthy workforce pay for it by raising the minimum wage. Quit socializing the cost of production.

There are some downsides here. It is calculated that an increase in the minimum wage would cost Oregon approximately 20,000 jobs, or about 1% of total jobs. And, riasing the minimum wage would be a huge increase for workers who don’t receive benefits so the taxpayers wouldn’t receive any savings for those workers. (Which is why the earned income refundable tax credit could be a better way to deal with the single parent worker than raising the minimum wage)

A good article in the Oregonian explains the details of the calculation a bit more.

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Harris

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

Hero: [heer-oh] noun, plural heroes; also heros. 1. a person of distinguished courage or ability, admired for his brave deeds and noble qualities. 2. a person who, in the opinion of others, has heroic qualities or has performed a heroic act and is regarded as a model or ideal:

Police forces on the defensive and in fear of patrolling our streets. Protests in cities large and small. Police and community afraid of the other.

How did it become such a binary and non-nuanced argument, with defenders of our blue line insistent that any critique of police techniques or actions is an attack on them personally and endangers their safety? And why are some critics of police tactics and individual officers insisting that all police are corrupt and dangerous?

Our current culture of unquestioned hero worship of regular people just doing their jobs – difficult jobs – and a police culture embracing that hero worship could be a primary cause of the disconnect.

Heroes aren’t supposed to be wrong. Or bad. Or make mistakes. Post 9/11 it seems it’s assumed – and we’re constantly being coaxed to publicly acknowledge – that every single public safety officer is a hero. So when an officer does something bad or makes a mistake, it engenders a sense of real betrayal . You expect bad guys to be bad. You expect imperfect humans to make mistakes. You don’t expect either from a hero.

The unquestioned hero worship is unfair to officers as well. If an officer has been told for 15 years that they are without question a hero by putting on a uniform, there could be a sense of entitlement by that officer. Heroes may not expect to be criticized for their errors or may become overzealous because of righteousness. They may not expect to be talked back to or questioned. All of these behaviors are bound to lead to some very bad interactions with the public.

Without a doubt it takes a person with some bravery to enter a profession where you face bad guys and unpleasant situations on a daily basis. And even though police officer isn’t in the top ten most dangerous jobs (33 officers died by unlawful violence in the line of duty in 2013), it is still dangerous physically even if officer deaths. Officers engage in scuffles and incur minor and major injuries. And the threat of violence itself is stressful and mentally damaging.

I know a lot of officers and for the most part they are good decent people doing the best they can. They take their job seriously, some are very talented and positive influences in the community. And when they make mistakes, I assume they were acting in good faith doing the best they can. They simply made a mistake as we all do. Of course their jobs are particularly difficult at times, and their mistakes can carry severe consequences so we all hope that mistakes are rare. And if an officer makes too many mistakes, for the safety of the officer and others, it may be best for all of us if they to choose another profession. Either voluntarily or not.

And if they are dishonest, or corrupt they need to be immediately terminated, and if appropriate, prosecuted.

But applying for the job and putting on the uniform is too low of a standard to award a hero label. Some have acted heroically in the line of duty. And that is worthy of praise as a hero. But we can’t tell who has acted heroically based just on a uniform.

Our public servants who wear a uniform are humans. With human frailties and qualities. They may be in general a braver and more heroic group of people than most of us and in fact some of those people wearing uniforms do heroic acts in the performance of their jobs. It would be beneficial to officers, police forces and our communities if we just stopped the hero worship of the uniform. If we did that, maybe the public could more easily accept the occasional mistake for what it is, a mistake. And perhaps some officers would have a better understanding of a community’s legitimate concern and occasional outrage when officers engage in over reach, dishonesty, and abuse of power.

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Harris

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

The Oregon Secretary of States office released the November voter registration totals today. While total registrations shrank by 0.12%, The Independent Party grew by over a half a percent in a single month and now has 108,446 members. Democratic Party membership shrank twice as fast as overall voter reduction at 0.25% and and the Republican Party shrank at the same rate as registered voters – 0.12%

But the big news is that the Independent Party of Oregon is 292 members away from becoming Oregon’s first new major party in …..a lot of years. The IPO gained 534 new members in November and appears to be poised to hit the major party standard (5% of all registered voters as of the most recent general election) possibly as soon as December, 2014.

Phil Keisling has been heard to have said that the IPO reaching major party status would be a game changer. Especially if, as has been discussed, it elects to open it’s May 2016 primary to NAV voters.

IPO leaders have been in discussions with officials at the Oregon Secretary of State office to coordinate the implementation of major party status and do discuss how non affiliated voters could participate in the IPO May Primary election.

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Harris

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

We know that the Oregon Republican Party is in financial crisis. Not necessarily individual candidates or officials, many had well funded campaigns and were able to raise money and had money spent on their behalf by independent expenditure organizations.

But the Republican Party of Oregon itself has done little in the way of fundraising or candidate support. Here is some data from ORESTAR for December, 2014. And while the graph above displays cash balance, just as important is the data on money raised and money spent in support of organization and candidates. If the GOP had raised and spent $2,000,000, their cash balance wouldn’t be concerning.

PARTY 2014 Income 2014 Expenses Current Cash

Democratic $ 2,359,768 $2,328.974 $ 148,201
Republican $22,436 $29,836 $ 600
Independent $15,553 $11,050 $15,562

Of course each county has a local Democratic and Republican Party. Perhaps the Republican focused their party building efforts locally? A spot check of the larger counties dispels that theory.

The Multnomah and Washington County Democratic Party organizations combined raised $131,133, spent $180,148 and were left with a cash balance of $82,198.

The Clackamas and Washington County Republican Party organizations combined raised $38,884, spent $60,670 and had a cash balance of $12,167. So while the local Republican Parties did provide more candidate support than the State organization, they still trailed the local Democratic Organizations badly and don’t come close to providing the type of candidate support that the Democratic State Party provided.

Do State Parties still matter? Today campaigns can be run separate from the Party so do these stark differences mean anything? Dark money groups and individual expenditure committees funded by wealthy individuals and corporate interests can and do finance individual candidates. But that strategy takes a toll on central organization and the ability to build a coherent brand, strategy and volunteer base. And the drawback of candidates going it alone is that their party is abandoned to the most active and partisan volunteers. Without adequate funding and investment by the candidates and party financiers, a Party’s brand can be hijacked by narrowly focused interest groups with a zealous agenda. And if the brand is tarnished in the minds of 60% of the voters, candidates in swing districts will be more harmed than helped by association with the Party.

Of course this could be a chicken and egg question for the Oregon GOP. Did the financiers abandon support for a centralized Republican Party because of zealous over reach by Party activists? Or did the zealous activists simply fill a void left when the financiers decided they could have more influence and control by more directly funding individual candidates. And if its the latter, can the Oregon GOP donors rebuild the brand by focusing on statewide party building efforts rather than individual candidates?

Regardless, there is currently no organization that adequately represents Oregon voters who are more economically conservative than the Democratic Party base, but more socially liberal than the GOP base. That void is evidenced by the boom of the independent voter movement and by studies that show both the Democratic and Republican Parties become more polarized and partisan. Whether the Independent Party of Oregon can fill that void and actively recruit and help finance candidates in Oregon Swing districts could be answered by the amount of funding it is able to attract between now and 2016, when its candidates will be appearing on the May primary ballot with the big kids.

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Harris

harris ROBERT
HARRIS

 
Oregon
Outpost

In the Governors election in Maine this year, voters had three candidates to chose from:

Current Governor Paul LePage of whom USA today wrote:

“Brutal” is also how critics describe LePage’s record since 2010, when he became governor with 39% of the vote in a three-way race. LePage cut welfare rolls, vetoed Medicaid expansion, passed an income tax cut and then reduced municipal revenue sharing to pay for it — all the while calling legislators “idiots,” state workers “corrupt,” and telling the NAACP to “kiss my butt.” “He’s piggish and bullheaded and not really listening to what the people are saying,” says Rebecca Kowaloff, 30, a doctor and Democratic voter in Portland.

Democratic candidate Mike Michaud described in that same article:

A third-generation paper mill worker who never attended college and stayed on the job until he went to Washington in 2002, he can compete with LePage for blue-collar and Franco-American loyalty. He criticizes LePage for kicking people off welfare — he wants to provide some benefits for people in low-wage jobs — and for “the negativity he keeps spewing.” Michaud has won six terms by hefty margins in the northern, more conservative half of Maine and before that served as president of the state Senate.

And Independent Candidate Eliot Cutler.

Cutler lost the Governors race to LePage back in 2010 by less than 2%. Cutler is an environmental lawyer and active in independent rights movement. In his 2010 campaign for Governor he was endorsed by virtually all the major newspapers.

Despite Cutlers nearly winning in 2010 in a one on one contest against LePage,this year in a three way race he received a meager 8% of the vote in 2014. Could his support have dropped that much? No. The reason is that our current system of voting – you select one candidate – means that in a three way race if you believe your favorite candidate can’t win, then you cast your vote against your least favorite.

It’s a sad form of Democracy that doesn’t let voters vote for their first choice.

But, luckily The Center for Election Science was on the scene in Maine on election day. They polled over 600 voters as they left the voting places and had them vote on the Governors race using approval voting and Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) with ranked choice. They also have them vote in head to head races between the three candidates.

The results should simply shock us and make people really think about whether the current voting method serves the people, or the Democratic and Republican parties.

Approval voting is a method of voting where a voter can vote for – or approve- of as many candidates as they wish. So many Maine voters who voted for both the Democrat and Republican also approved of Cutler as Governor. In fact, Cutler had the most voters approve of him.

IRV, or instant runoff, allows voters to rank their choices 1, 2 or 3. There is math done. The results in the graph show the result after the math is applied in a first round. Under this voting system Michaud would have been eliminated in the first round, and Cutler and LePage would have moved into a final head to head round. As you can see on the right side of the graph, Cutler would have slaughtered LePAge 60% – 40% in a top two runoff.

The circles are head to head races between the three candidates. The best candidate would be the one that could beat every other candidate head to head. That would be Cutler who holds a 20% margin over either the Democrat or Republican in head to head.

This should be shocking to voters. Simply shocking.

Cutler has the deepest and widest support among voters. It is clear that LePage’s victory made over 50% of the voters unhappy. A Michaud victory would have had the same effect. But a Cutler victory would have satisfied 55-60% of the voters.

Our system is structurally set up to not select the best most satisfying winner. Many of us cannot vote for our favorite candidate, we have to vote against our least favorite. At least as long as the psychology that only a Democrat or Republican can win a three way election.

And if that psychology can’t be changed, we need to change the way we vote from plurality to approval – or arguably to IRV.

A ballot measure switching our voting to approval voting should be the highest priority for election reformers. In fact, it should be the top priority for those who seek campaign finance reform. Because if voters are allowed to approve of third party candidates without the fear of throwing the election to their least favorite candidate, you may even see some third party or independent candidates win some state elections.

And approval voting doesn’t require an amendment to the US Constitution. It just takes some signatures on a ballot and educating the voters on the merits of moving our voting into the 21st century.

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Harris