GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
The Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives have elected a new majority leader: Rep. Barbara Smith Warner (D-Portland). The previous majority leader, Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland), announced last week that she was stepping down, though she did not give a specific reason for doing so. Her name has been rumored for some time as a contender for statewide office. Tina Kotek (D-Portland) continues to serve as speaker of the House, the head of the caucus. Smith Warner served as the co-chair of the joint Student Success Committee that laid the groundwork for the passage of the landmark funding bill for education.
The Bend Bulletin
With the Legislature gone until winter, Salem returns to its summer populace — the governor, state agencies and tourists. But the effects of the chaotic 2019 session continue to echo through the Capitol. Catching up on the end times: The governor has 30 days from the end of the session on June 30 to sign or veto policy bills. The governor’s office reports that through June 27, Gov. Kate Brown had signed 524 bills. Dozens more are backed up from the end of the session. The Legislature introduced an estimated 2,768 bills and resolutions in the 2019 session. The governor has the power to veto entire policy bills, which would require an override vote of two-thirds of the Senate and House in separate votes. Since Democrats hold a 38-22 advantage in the House and 18-12 majority in the Senate, the Legislature and the governor were in sync on most issues, making vetoes unlikely.
Christmas has come to Oregon’s legislators. In one of the final steps of the 2019 Legislature, lawmakers overwhelmingly passed a massive bill to deliver about $1.32 billion to projects across the state, from Clackamas to Harney counties. One of the least controversial bills to pass this session, it was released less than a week before lawmakers went home for the year. “It’s Christmas in July,” said Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Roseburg. Hayden was referring to the bill’s colloquial term: the “Christmas Tree bill. “ It’s a biennial tradition.
Oregon is getting national attention for becoming the first state to pass legislation that eliminates exclusive single-family zoning in much of the state. But it could be many years before the landmark legislation has a major effect — if it ever does. Housing experts on both sides of the fight over House Bill 2001 say market forces and the reaction of developers will play an important role in determining how much multifamily housing gets built in urban neighborhoods that have traditionally been largely reserved for detached single-family housing. “I think it’s probably more symbolically important than practically important at this point,” said Jenny Schuetz, who studies metropolitan policy issues at the Brookings Institute, a Washington, D.C., think tank. “It takes probably a couple of years before the market really shows how it is going to respond.”
The 2020 Democratic presidential primary starts in earnest this week in Portland, with one private fundraiser and one public rally. Washington Gov. Jay Inslee will be holding a private event July 8 alongside U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Oregon) to talk about fighting climate change. Andrew Yang will hold a rally in Pioneer Courthouse Square on July 13. Neither candidate is expected to win the Democratic Party nomination, but they consider blue stronghold Portland important enough for an early stop as they try to build momentum.
Electric vehicle owners face a decision in 2020: Which of two options should they choose when registering their vehicle? The answer depends on how much they will drive in Oregon. The Oregon Department of Transportation has expanded its road usage charge program called OReGO. The voluntary program charges motorists based on how many miles they cruise along Oregon’s roads and highways instead of through fuel taxes. It’s intended to equalize what participants pay the state based on their actual road usage, not through fuel consumption, which can vary based on the vehicle’s efficiency. Owners of any vehicle can enroll in OReGO if it gets 20 miles a gallon or better. That’s the “break-even point” where fuel taxes cost the same as OReGO.
Eugene-Springfield area state legislators will discuss the 2019 Oregon legislative session at a July 9 town hall in Eugene. Attendees will have the opportunity to ask questions of legislators and to hear about key bills considered by the legislature this year. “This is a great opportunity for the community to hear about the groundbreaking legislation we passed this year, as well as about the ways local legislators worked together to advance the priorities of our community,” said Rep. Julie Fahey. The following elected state officials are confirmed to attend: Sen. James I. Manning Jr., Sen. Lee Beyer, Rep. Paul Holvey, Rep. Nancy Nathanson, Rep. John Lively, and Rep. Fahey.
A pair of Oregon child welfare workers accused of having sex in the presence of a foster child they were supposed to care for during an overnight hotel stay are no longer being paid by the state, and one has resigned. Mark Walsh, a child welfare supervisor in the Department of Human Services’ Dallas office, quit on June 28, effective immediately, according to department spokesman Jake Sunderland. Kate Guy, a paralegal in the same office, was switched to unpaid administrative leave when her paid leave expired on June 26, Sunderland said.
On a cool Friday night in early June, more than 100 intellectually disabled soccer players gathered at Portland’s Providence Park for the Summer Soccer Invitational. It was a pivotal moment for Special Olympics of Oregon. A year ago, the non-profit had fallen into financial chaos. It was too broke to stage competitions. Lenders and vendors, some that hadn’t been paid in a year, were clamoring for their money. Insolvency and bankruptcy loomed over the organization like the blade of a guillotine.
The Bend Bulletin
Going into Albertsons on Friday afternoon, Barbara Seaman thought she had a pretty good handle on Bend’s plastic bag ban law. But when she left, Seaman came out with groceries, a paper bag she wasn’t expecting to pay 10 cents for, and a sense of confusion. Which bag ban was the law of the land? The one that began July 1 in Bend, or a statewide ban approved by the Oregon Legislature and scheduled to begin Jan. 1? Compounding the confusion: The city of Bend established a grace period for stores and consumers that would last until Jan. 1.