GOVERNMENT AND POLITICS
Oregon Public Broadcasting
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek on Thursday announced a number of major changes to her members’ committee assignments, citing two incidents that occurred this week. In the most dramatic change, longtime state Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, has been removed as chair of the House Committee on Health Care, which he has run since 2007. He’ll remain on the committee as a member. Greenlick has also been taken off the House Committee on Conduct, which he chaired. Next, Kotek removed state Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, from the House Judiciary Committee. The moves arose from concerns over lawmakers’ conduct that have dominated Salem since a sexual harassment scandal broke out in late 2017, and continued amid a high-profile standoff between legislative leaders and the state’s Bureau of Labor and Industries.
The Associated Press
A leader of the Oregon Legislature demoted two lawmakers Thursday for disrespectful and rude behavior as the statehouse struggles to make itself a more respectful workplace. Rep. Mitch Greenlick, a Portland Democrat, called a pharmaceutical lobbyist “stupid” during a health care committee hearing Tuesday on a drug pricing bill. House Speaker Tina Kotek, also a Portland Democrat, responded by removing Greenlick as chairman of the committee and from membership in the House Conduct Committee. Kotek removed Rep. Bill Post, a Keizer Republican, from the House Judiciary Committee after he called a state senator “cray-cray” on Twitter and sent a tweet inviting gun-rights advocates to a gun-control rally at the Capitol, with the words, “be ready, be there.”
The Statesman Journal
Rep. Mitch Greenlick, a Portland Democrat, called a pharmaceutical lobbyist “stupid” during a health care committee hearing Tuesday on a drug pricing bill. House Speaker Tina Kotek, also a Portland Democrat, responded by removing Greenlick as chairman of the committee and from membership in the House Conduct Committee. Kotek also removed Rep. Bill Post, a Keizer Republican, from the House Judiciary Committee after he called a state senator “cray-cray” on Twitter and sent a tweet inviting gun-rights advocates to a gun-control rally at the Capitol, with the words, “be ready, be there.” Post later called his comments a “miscommunication,” but added that “free speech, whether we like it or not, is free speech.” The actions came as the Legislature’s leaders are attempting to create a more respectful environment after the state Bureau of Labor and Industries said in a civil rights complaint last month that they didn’t stop repeated sexual harassment by a state senator. Sen. Jeff Kruse, a Republican, resigned last year and maintains his innocence. Greenlick apologized at the hearing for calling a lobbyist stupid. Rep. Christine Drazan of Clackamas County, a Republican on the committee, responded that lawmakers “have been through extensive training about equity and respectful workplace. We are working on issues around capitol culture and what I have seen here today troubles me deeply.”
Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek this morning demoted two lawmakers for their public remarks, as she tries to contain the fallout from a sexual harassment scandal that has paralyzed the Capitol. Kotek today removed Rep. Mitch Greenlick (D-Portland) as chairman of the House Committee on Health Care, after he made what Kotek described as “demeaning comments toward two individuals who were testifying before his committee.” She also removed him entirely from the House Conduct Committee. Greenlick has drawn the ire of House Republicans since he berated a pharmaceuticals lobbyist in a hearing last week, calling him “stupid.” Oregon Public Broadcasting reported Wednesday on those remarks. Greenlick, long an irascible leader, has been previously criticized for dressing down witnesses to his committee, and has also warred with constituents this session over vaccines. Kotek also removed Rep. Bill Post (R-Salem) from the House Committee on Judiciary, citing “two inappropriate tweets, one regarding a member of the Senate and one regarding an upcoming lobby day.” One of those tweets invited gun-rights groups to a gun-control rally with the words, “be ready, be there.”
Oregon’s failure to regulate campaign cash has made it into one of the biggest money states in American politics. The flood of money creates an easy regulatory climate where industry gets what it wants, again and again. READ THE INVESTIGATION
“Has Republican Resistance to Trump Collapsed?” The familiar question, offered up many times and in many variations since 2016, appeared in The New York Times on Tuesday. This time, it served as the headline for an opinion piece by GOP strategist (and Trump critic) Liz Mair. Writing from “inside the belly of the beast,” she stated that President Donald Trump is the king of all he surveys, pointing out that “the NeverTrump movement has disintegrated” and that the president can boast of a “near 90 percent approval rating among Republicans.” It’s true, Republicans love Trump. They love him as much or more than they’ve loved any president since the party’s founding in 1854. But there’s more to consider here. The GOP holds the White House and the U.S. Senate, but if current trends continue, it soon might be struggling to maintain its major-party status. Registered Republican voters in the country are on the verge of being overtaken by independent voters, according to data from July 2018. Registered Democrats, meanwhile, outnumber Republicans nationwide by some 12 million.
Oregon Gov. Kate Brown on Thursday touted the success of the state’s unique automatic voter registration program, pointing to a new report that argues the “Oregon model” could be key to engaging millennial voters nationwide. The study by the nonprofit Center for American Progress found that voter registration numbers among youths have soared since Oregon switched to an automatic registration model in 2016. The law registers eligible voters when they apply for a driver’s license. More than 390,000 Oregonians were registered under the program in 2017, and half of those voters were under the age of 40.
Faced with a housing shortage and skyrocketing rents, Oregon is poised to become the first state to impose mandatory rent controls, with a measure establishing tenant protections moving swiftly through the Legislature. Many residents have testified in favor of the legislation, describing anxiety and hardship as they face higher rents. Some have gone up by as much as almost 100 percent — forcing people to move, stay with friends or even live in their vehicles. The Oregon housing shortage is getting worse because of a big influx of people moving to the state — lured by the state’s job opportunities and its forests, mountains, coastline and relaxed lifestyle. Many move from California, where the cost of living is often more expensive.
Rep. Earl Blumenauer is back at bat for the bees. The congressman’s latest legislative push calls for the suspension of the use of nicotine-based poisons — known as neonicotinoids — that can be deadly for pollinators such as bumblebees, butterflies and lots of other bugs. At stake, Blumenauer says, is the $190 billion in global benefits pollinators provide to the agricultural industry. About one-third of the nation’s honeybee colonies collapsed between 2016 and 2018, with causes including the conversion of wildlands to monoculture fields and the neurotoxins that farmers routinely apply to food as it grows.
The Bend Bulletin
Charles Cook and Suezan Hill-Cook didn’t think much of a medical marijuana growing operation when it set up shop next to their quiet home northeast of Redmond in 2015. Over the next few years, however, they and other residents of the Lake Park Estates subdivision grew increasingly frustrated with the noise, smells and traffic that come with a cannabis operation. Then, during the hottest part of last summer, the well the couple relies on for water went dry — and they blamed the marijuana growing operation. “That was the last straw,” Hill-Cook said. The couple spent the following three weeks asking their neighbors for water and showering at Redmond’s Cascade Swim Center. When they eventually found a contractor to re-dig and replace the well, it cost more than $18,000.
A Eugene-based property manager is attempting to get ahead of the nation’s first mandatory rent control law, notifying hundreds of its tenants of an upcoming and significant rent hike as the legislation sails through the state capitol. The proposed law, Senate Bill 608, would prohibit no-cause evictions after 12 months of occupancy and limit the amount on rent hikes. The bill has passed the Senate, and a House committee gave it a do-pass recommendation following a hearing Wednesday. A House vote is expected next week, and Gov. Kate Brown is expected to sign it into law. The law would take effect immediately upon signing. The day of the hearing, Empire Property Management sent out a bulk email to tenants noting that due to the legislation, landlords “are under pressure to make serious changes to the way we do business.”
When Winnebago decided to cut 220 jobs at its Junction City campus early this month, warehouse lead Scott Miller was initially disappointed about the move, but in the weeks following the announcement he has been impressed with how the company is handling the closure. “A lot of companies could have easily shut the doors and said, ‘thanks for trying, it’s not going to work and we’re done here,’” Miller said. “Winnebago did it in a way where people can land on their feet and find other jobs.” The company announced Feb. 4 that it is relocating to another campus in Forest City, Iowa, after two years of producing large diesel-powered motor homes in Junction City. Winnebago will keep open its 30-employee RV service operation.
After three hours of testimony Thursday afternoon before the Oregon Transportation Commission, a proposal to build an intermodal transloading facility near Millersburg appeared to hold an advantage over a similar project proposed near Brooks. But commission members want to ensure that their questions have been answered adequately before deciding whether to invest $25 million in one of the projects. (Also on the table is a similar project in the eastern Oregon community of Nyssa, with a $26 million price tag.) As consultant Dan Smith of the Tioga Group noted, the Millersburg project “is a few yards ahead in what could be a very long race.” Smith and Frank Harder represented the Tioga Group, which provided consulting services to the commission about all three projects. The group has more than 40 years of experience in trucking, shipping and rail issues.
The Bend Bulletin
A bond measure for a new $40 million pool and recreation center in Redmond will be on the ballot for the May 21 election, along with a five-year operations levy for the proposed building. The Redmond Area Park and Recreation District Board voted unanimously Thursday to send the bond and levy to voters, stating that the community needed another pool besides the small Cascade Swim Center to accommodate its growing community. “There’s no question there’s a need,” said Redmond Area Park and Recreation District board member Zack Harmon. “I think this is a challenge worth taking.”
The Daily Astorian
A study that found every county in Oregon is short on child care came as no surprise to Kim Barrick. The Peace Learning Center on 12th Street in Astoria, where Barrick works as director, has waitlists for every class. In the toddler-age classes, the wait can stretch 10 children deep. The learning center, run as a mission of the neighboring Peace Lutheran Church, serves around 40 children at any given time. It is just reopening a class for 1-year olds after having to close it for a while due to lack of staff. “I have no doubt that class will be full by the end of the month, and we will have a waitlist,” Barrick said. The learning center is not alone.
Oregon Public Broadcasting
A listening session with the top echelons of the Portland Police Bureau nearly ended Thursday night when a well known member of the group Patriot Prayer marched to the front of Maranatha Church in Northeast Portland. People stood up from the pews and chaos ensued as Haley Adams — a well known supporter of far right causes — attempted to confront bureau leaders, even as others waited their turn for the microphone. Portlanders at the meeting who opposed Adams’ presence demanded she leave the listening session about recently released text messages between a PPB lieutenant and Patriot Prayer’s leader. Those messages raised concern about favoritism at the police bureau between officers and right-wing demonstrators who repeatedly clash with antifascist counterprotesters on Portland streets.
The Bend Bulletin
New arrivals to Oregon sometimes have a hard time figuring out how state government works. For instance, the state has a $26 billion unfunded liability for its future pension costs. That means schools and other government entities can’t do as much teaching, road paving and law enforcing as they would otherwise. Why not? Because year after year, they almost inevitably have to pay more and more into the state’s Public Employees Retirement System to deal with runaway costs. Schools in Oregon already have a future PERS shortfall of some $9 billion. Their PERS costs are likely to go up by $375 million over the next two years, and costs will continue to rise after that. Gov. Kate Brown would like to increase school funding. She is hoping to get some $2 billion more into the schools with new taxes on businesses. But to make that $2 billion a real increase she would also need to find a way to add in another $3 billion just to keep up with projected PERS increases through 2021, according to The Oregonian.
The tenant protection laws up before the state Legislature this month are essential new tools in the fight against domestic violence, sexual assault and harassment and they will bring more peace and security for people at risk. That is why those of us who work with survivors and advocate on their behalf are strong proponents of Senate Bill 608. The bill will ban most no-cause evictions, significantly cutting down on the discrimination and retaliation undermining the safety and stability of survivors in rental housing. The bill leaves intact all the for-cause eviction procedures, allowing landlords to terminate the rental agreement of a dangerous perpetrator with 24 hours’ notice. That is the safest and fastest way to protect adults and children who are at risk of harm from someone living in close proximity with them and provides for due process.