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Posts published in “Oregon”

Enron?

It's been noted in a number of other places, but the quote is so startling we thought it ought to be noticed here too. It appears in a press release by Oregon House Minority Leader Wayne Scott, R-Canby, about a proposed corporate tax increase proposed by Representative David Edwards, D-Hillsboro:

“This is a tax increase on every business in Oregon, from Enron on down to Mom and Pop."

Enron?

On a hair trigger

Grant County courthouse

A picture of the Grant County courthouse

We're in the process of gathering election results information from the Northwest's 119 counties, and as a result stopping by the courthouses, one by one. As part of the effort, we snap a picture or two of the outside of the courthouse building, to be used in eventual illustration (and evidence we were there).

Most of all this has been uneventful. A run-in with law enforcement in central Oregon last week did make up a disquieting incident, and a headline today out of Albany suggests a need to consider and discuss both.

A light rain was falling as I parked in the Grant County courthouse parking lot, and stepped out to take a couple of shots of the building, a little more difficult in this case than usual because much of the building was obscured by trees. Headed back to the car, I was called to by a uniformed law enforcement officer - the undersheriff, it turned out, who was accompanied by another officer who stayed a few feet behind him. He asked what I was doing.

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Candidate funding on gay rights

Public radio reporter Austin Jenkins at Olympia has pulled together a report that was bound to happen - it was on our radar too, but we hadn't gotten to it yet - since an insightful story appeared in the March Atlantic Monthly magazine ("They won't know what hit them," by Joshua Green), about a network of wealthy gay businessmen, led by Quark founder Tim Gill of Denver, who have been carefully coordinating political contributions.

Gill is described as having "decided to eschew national races in favor of state and local ones, which could be influenced in large batches and for much less money. Most antigay measures, they discovered, originate in state legislatures. Operating at that level gave them a chance to “punish the wicked,” as Gill puts it—to snuff out rising politicians who were building their careers on antigay policies, before they could achieve national influence." So he and others have been contributing to non-"glamour" campaigns, not just at the U.S. House but at the statehouse, and state legislative, levels.

Jenkins has pulled together some of that information, through campaign records reports, about the Northwest: "I headed to Washington's Public Disclosure Commission Web site and found that Gill and six other out-of-state donors contributed more than $25,000 to six, swing-district Democrats running for the Legislature. A similar picture emerges in Oregon." Those targeted in the region last year, he says, was then-state Senator Luke Esser, who was defeated for re-election last year and now chairs the Washington Republican Party.

Saxton moves on

Ron Saxton

Ron Saxton

The Medford Mail Tribune seems to be breaking this: Ron Saxton, last year's Republican nominee for governor of Oregon, is leaving (mostly) his job as a key partner in the Portland law firm Ater Wynne, to become an executive at the Klamath Falls manufacturing firm Jeld-Wen.

Jeld-Wen is a door and window manufacturer; it has more than 20,000 employees. And, the Mail-Tribune notes, "Rod Wendt, the chief executive officer of Jeld-Wen, was one of the top donors in Saxton’s failed challenge to Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski, giving hundreds of thousands of dollars."

Blog intensity

The blog tracker Technorati has a new tool we may find useful in the months ahead, charts showing the number of references in blog posts to a specific name or word.

Here, for example, is the measure of mentions of "Bill Sali" - the Idaho representative - in blogs over the last six months.

Posts that contain Bill Sali per day for the last 180 days.
Technorati Chart
Get your own chart!

You might have thought that as election season moved on and the summer doldrums approached, that references to Sali (and other politicians) would have diminished. Not so; in fact, they seem to be rising.

What about other Northwesterners? What's the pattern for, say, Oregon Senator Gordon Smith?

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Doing the job, or else

Oregon statehouseCompared to a lot of jobs, there aren't many strict requirements for state legislators. There are a lot of things any legislator worth respecting should do, from attending regularly floor and committee sessions to working with constituents and researching legislation at hand. But, item by item, not many of these things are absolutely required, at least not all the time. Meetings can be missed (and, since conflicts develop, sometimes have to be). No lawmaker can become expert on all legislation. On most of these things, you're talking matters of degree.

In the Oregon Legislature, one of the few things the rules say you must do, if you are a legislator, is this: If you are on the floor and a vote is called, you have to vote.

We (along with others) noted just a few days ago a case of a legislator who opted not to vote. The bill in question concerned a cigarette tax increase, and the legislator who said from the floor, "Mr. Speaker, I am not going to vote on this issue," was Representative John Lim, R-Gresham. Speaker Jeff Merkley advised him that he had to vote; Lim said he would vote later. Which, according to the rules, he also wasn't allowed to do.

Merkley seems to have had time to think this over, and now he has a proposal. The Salem Statesman-Journal's legislative blog is reporting that Merkley is proposing an amendment in House rules to impose a $5,000 fine on any legislator who refuses to vote when on the House floor. "At that rate, lawmakers would plow through their entire salary after four violations," the blog noted.

You wouldn't think this would be necessary. Evidently, however.

Increasingly, on Sunday

liquorIs the purchase of liquor something that can't be planned for? We long have scoffed at the laws that ban some liquor sales on election day - would people really be unable to buy their stock prior to, and get sloshed on election day regardless? Well, maybe.

Just as Idaho's largest county (Ada) is preparing to join about half of the state's other counties in allowing liquor store sales on Sundays, the other two Northwest states are reviewing their own experience, and finding an apparently enlarged marketplace. You might suspect that allowing Sunday sales would do little to sell more liquor - knowing the stores are closed on Sundays, wouldn't you just buy ahead on Saturday? But evidently not everything is thinking ahead to do that.

The Seattle Times is reporting today on the Washington experience since, two years ago, the state opened liquor sales on Sundays. The business has, it turns out, grown tremendously. When the change occurred, state officials were figuring sales might increase by close to $10 million a year as a result; our thought at the time was that they were being a little optimistic. Turns out not: According to the Times, "Instead, Sunday sales have exceeded projections by nearly 60 percent and now the State Liquor Control Board expects $15.1 million will be collected on Sundays during the current biennium, which ends June 30."

That's no aberration. Oregon allowed some Sunday sales about three years ago, and sales overall have risen variously between 9.2% and 19.6%. Pennsylvania, which took similar action about the same time, reported a similar experience.

Maybe, some things you just can't plan for.

A choice of a do-over

There is on Blue Oregon a developing and lively counterpoint argument about House Bill 3540, which sends to the voters a proposed revision of the Measure 37 initiative passed in 2004. 3540 was passed in the Oregon House on Friday on a party-line 31-24 vote; it is next expected to easily passed in the Senate.

We weighed on this a few days ago ("An absolute decision"), arguing that there's no violation of voter will in this approach: If the voters like what they did in 2004 and don't want to change it, they can reject the new proposal. The new measure is different from Measure 37, substantially so, which led one pro-37 commenter to argue: "As long as we get it straight that 100% of Democrats are against the 61% of Oregon voters who passed it. I wonder if our newspapers will be making this clear during the campaign process? Or ever?"

That would have been a reasonable argument if the Oregon Legislature had directly passed a law (as they could have done) simply overturning Measure 37 and imposing a new regime instead. But that's not what they did. The majority, argument (with some reason) that many voters would like to change what they did, will give them the chance. The voters can make their own decision - again.

That all the negative votes came from the Republican caucus (and five Republican House members chose not to vote on the bill at all) may be the most interesting part of Friday's action.

Smith: The conservative case against

We've said before we expect, with the new Club for Growth activism in Oregon leading the way, that there will be a from-the-right challenge next year to Oregon Senator Gordon Smith.

We didn't say it would necessarily be successful.

The outlines of such a challenge - a case against Smith - were cleanly laid out in the Northwest Republican blog, in the form of a letter from Bill Sizemore, he of numerous (largely anti-tax and conservative-based) initiative campaigns. (Blogger Ted Piccolo posted the letter, but without comment.) Sizemore has been mentioned as a prospect to oppose Smith in the Republican primary. That may or may not happen, but his argument against Smith could easily constitute the core of the primary insurgency.

"Can a greater case be made against Republican Senator Gordon Smith of Oregon? Hate crimes legislation; boondoggle mass transit funding; voting against drilling in ANWR; voting for a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq and calling our troops’ presence in Iraq “criminal”. That ought to be enough of an indictment. But there’s more." The more is Smith's support of a cigarette tax increase, opposition to some anti-immigrant efforts, and so on.

Read and check it out. It could be picked up by whoever runs against Smith (who we suspect won't be Sizemore.) But don't assume it will necessarily be enough to work.