Thursday, January 27, 2011

When Sitting Next To Each Other Is Awkward

On a week in which members of Congress made a show of bi-partisanship, some state lawmakers in Pennsylvania didn't seem to get the message. The two Representatives sitting next to each other in this video clearly aren't getting along too well. The hullabaloo was over a series of procedural changes advocated by Republicans, who hold a 112-91 majority in the Pennsylvania House. One of the changes that Republicans wanted was to remove a Democrat from every House committee. As the Republican chair of the Rules committee tried to start a roll call vote, Democrats complained that he was shutting off debate, then stormed out of the room. That prompted the Republican chair to remark:  "We assume all of the members of the Democratic Party are voting No."

For a longer clip and more context, click here.

So, What's On The Agenda?

With lawmakers returning to Salem next Tuesday, committees are starting to post agendas for upcoming meetings. There are several ways to keep track of legislation. If you already know the bill number, you can plug it into the search function on this page. That will tell you which committee it's been assigned to, and whether it's currently scheduled for an upcoming hearing. If the bill you're tracking has been assigned to a committee but no hearing is scheduled, you can sign up here to receive agendas for that committee by email.

If you don't know the bill number, you have a bit more legwork to do. You can always do a search. Or, you can browse bills listed by topic. If you just want to get a sense of what lawmakers are going to be talking about in the coming days, you can check out the currently posted agendas for every committee.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Memories Of A Bygone Era

Speaking of lawmaker newsletters, one just landed in my in-box from Democratic Representative Dave Hunt. He's the guy who, until 15 days ago, was the Speaker of the Oregon House. Hunt no longer holds that title, but someone forgot to tell his email program, which is still delivering messages like this:

From: House Speaker Dave Hunt [] On Behalf Of House Speaker Dave Hunt []

UPDATE:  A corrected email was sent out later in the morning reflecting Representative Hunt's new title:  House Democratic leader.

No Fish Were Harmed In The Writing Of This Blog Post

A recent newsletter from Republican Senator Jeff Kruse contained an amusing typo. Kruse wrote at length about the need to define the role of government. But his message was overshadowed in part by his headline:  "Definning State Government."  It seems like Kruse's constituents couldn't help but let the Senator know about his goof. In his newest communique, Kruse writes:

I want to thank all of you who pointed out my spelling error in the headline of my last newsletter.  The feature that initially sold me on computers was spell check, as spelling is not one of my strong points.  But my computer can’t check for context in a title so it let the word stand.  Some have suggested it was a Freudian slip on my part and I may accept this rational.  After all, a definned fish cannot move forward aggressively and I would prefer to see government not moving forward aggressively as well.


Friday, January 21, 2011

Decisions, Decisions

I know of at least three Oregon politicians who won't be watching President Obama's State of the Union address next Tuesday: Senate President Peter Courtney and House Co-Speakers Bruce Hanna and Arnie Roblan. That's because the legislature's top three lawmakers will be leading a workshop called a “Citizen’s Guide to the Legislative Process," which is scheduled for the exact same time that the President is going to be addressing the nation.

So what's an Oregon political junkie to do? Get a first-hand guide on how to influence the political process directly from some of the state's most powerful politicians? Or watch the leader of the free world deliver what could be his most important speech of the year? (Maybe the compromise would be to attend the legislative workshop in Salem, and give Courtney, Roblan and Hanna a standing ovation every 45 seconds.)

And yes, I do realize it would be possible to attend the Salem event whilst recording the State of the Union for later viewing. Additionally, both events will be streamed live online.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Kitzhaber Announces He Has No Announcement

Governor John Kitzhaber said during his inaugural address that he would announce some of his budget proposals later that week, on Friday January 14. That announcement was postponed to allow the governor to attend the funeral of slain Rainier police chief Ralph Painter. Now, Kitzhaber says he won't release any budget details until February 1st--the latest possible date allowed under state law. In a press release, the Democrat says he'll "deliver a balanced budget based on existing revenue sources."

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

It's Like Sine Die Without The Hoopla

Despite an evenly split chamber, no partisan divide was on display today as the House took its first vote on a piece of legislation. Senate Concurrent Resolution 8 breezed through 55-0 (5 members were excused). What could possibly be so important as to require a floor vote this early in the session? It turns out that SCR-8 is a mechanism to send lawmakers home for three weeks until they re-convene on February 1st. After a few days of organizational meetings this week, the legislature will be dark until next month. It's part of a new schedule designed to a save some money during a time of the session that's traditionally chock full of hearings but few actual votes.

However, even though lawmakers won't be in Salem, they'll still be under session rules. As House Democratic leader Dave Hunt reminded his colleagues on the floor today, that means lawmakers won't be able to accept campaign contributions.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Meet The Only State Rep Not In Charge Of Anything

Thanks to the evenly divided nature of the Oregon House this year, every single committee has two Co-Chairs--one Democrat and one Republican. And, every single committee has two Co-Vice Chairs. All told, counting subcommittees and joint House/Senate committees, there are 23 different committees on which a House member can serve. With four leadership positions per committee, that creates a whopping 92 different opportunities for a state representative to have a position of authority (albeit a rather limited authority in the case of a "Co-Vice Chair").  With only 60 representatives, clearly there are titles to go around. And since two of those representatives have been elected Co-Speakers of the House, that leaves 58 representatives to share 92 leadership positions. Should be a slam dunk, right?

For 57 of those 58 lawmakers, the answer was "yes." Only Yamhill County Republican Jim Weidner came up short. He'll serve the 2011 legislative session as the sole state representative who can't claim a Co-Chair or Co-Vice Chair spot. Weidner downplayed that distinction when I asked him about it today. He said he didn't mind not having a leadership position, as that would allow him to spend more time with his family instead of at the capitol. Weidner said he did request to serve on three specific committees and was granted that request. One of them is the House Health Care Committee. That means he'll be serving side-by-side with Democrat Mitch Greenlick, who chaired that committee during the last session and who grilled Weidner during an uncomfortable exchange that was gleefully circulated by House Democrats. If Weidner is still serving on all three commitees by the end of his term, he'll be doing better than he did last session when he was unceremoniously removed from two of his three committees by House Democratic leadership.

Monday, January 10, 2011

John Kitzhaber, Governor

At 11:51 a.m., John Kitzhaber took the oath of office and is once again the governor of Oregon. Here's a first look at the governor's new website.

Kitzhaber's Alabama Counterpart Also Won't Be At Game

After he's sworn in today, Oregon governor John Kitzhaber will watch the college football championship game from the comfort of the governor's mansion. Aside from a costly charter flight, there's just no way to take the oath of office at noon in Salem, Oregon and attend a college football game in Glendale, Arizona just 5 hours later. We don't know if Kitzhaber would have traveled to Arizona to watch the Ducks if the game had been held, say, next week. But we do know that Alabama's governor, Bob Riley, was planning to attend to watch his state's team, the Auburn Tigers. But Mother Nature intervened. Perhaps mindful of New Jersey governor Chris Christie's recent public relations battle after he was on vacation in Florida during a major snowstorm, Alabama's governor canceled his trip to the BCS championship game today as a winter storm enveloped his state.

Yes, He's Wearing Jeans

In about an hour, John Kitzhaber will become the first Oregon governor to take the oath of office wearing jeans since, well, John Kitzhaber. So ends the speculation.

Kitzhaber Starts With A Joke

In his first official words as governor of Oregon (this time), John Kitzhaber plans to tell a joke. Here's a copy of his remarks, as prepared:


So I guess none of you could get tickets to the game either.

Before I begin I would like to pause to offer my heartfelt thanks, my own and on behalf of Oregon to Governor Ted Kulongoski. I don’t believe that another person in the history of this state who found more ways to express his love for and commitment to Oregon and its people:  Marine, Legislator, Insurance Commissioner, Attorney General, Supreme Court Justice and Governor.

But these official positions only scratch the surface of his good works and those good works have made a great difference.

Throughout his lifetime of service he has never for a moment forgotten his roots; lost his empathy for those who struggle or failed to preserve.

[The original version of this post included Kitzhaber's entire speech. Now that the speech has been posted online, I'm truncating the post and will instead include a link to his remarks.

Here Are The New House Rules

Here's a first look at the new rules the Oregon House just approved, 57-3.  Several changes to the traditional rules are needed to reflect the divided nature of the chamber.

Electronic Version of Proposed Rules for 2011-12                                                            

House Elects Co-Speakers

In a somewhat anti-climactic vote, members of the evenly tied Oregon House elected Democrat Arnie Roblan and Republican Bruce Hanna to be co-speakers this morning. The outcome was not in doubt, as the two representatives had already assumed their respective office spaces. Earlier, House members approved procedural rules 57-3. The rules outline, among many other things, how bills move from committee to the floor. This is the first time in Oregon history that the House has been evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. The organizational work's not done. As of this moment, the Co-Speakers still have not announced committee assignments.

John Kitzhaber is scheduled to be sworn in as governor during a joint session of the House and Senate at 10:45 this morning. Here's a schedule of the day's proceedings. You can watch all of the day's events live at the Oregon Channel website.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Kitzhaber's New Communications Director Supported His Primary Opponent

John Kitzhaber named a slew of staff members for his incoming administration yesterday. The list includes Tim Raphael, who will serve as Kitzhaber's Communications Director. Raphael is a veteran of the Oregon political landscape, but curiously enough, he publicly supported Kitzhabaer's opponent, Bill Bradbury, during the Democratic primary. In a March 24, 2010 posting on BlueOregon, Raphael writes that Bradbury's "campaign for Governor is refreshing for proposing substantive new solutions to the thorniest problems facing the state." While Raphael later writes that he has "no axe to grind with John Kitzhaber" and that he'll "gladly campaign for either (Bradbury or Kitzhaber) in the general election," he finishes his post by saying " this primary, I’m following my heart, and it says Bill Bradbury for Governor."

h/t to Kari Chisholm

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Kizhaber Announces Chief of Staff, Other Policy Heads

Governor-elect John Kitzhaber has named his Chief of Staff and several other key policy positions. Here's the release that went out this afternoon:

Governor-elect Kitzhaber Announces Governor’s Office Team
Governor-elect Kitzhaber today announced his top aides, led by Chief of Staff, Curtis Robinhold.  Mr. Robinhold is a native Oregonian with deep roots in the state and worked in Governor Kitzhaber’s office in 1995.  He went on to receive Master’s degrees in both business and environmental management from Yale University and has managed operations for alternative energy companies across six countries in Europe and Asia.
“Curtis brings business experience and savvy to the job.  He’s managed large and complex operations, and he has the commitment to, and knowledge of, Oregon values,” said Governor-elect Kitzhaber.
Other key staff appointments include Tim Raphael as Communications Director, Brian Shipley as Legislative Director, Kendall Clawson as Director of Executive Appointments, Cheryl Myers as the Minority Women and Emerging Small Business Advocate (MWESB).  Greg Wolf will lead the Governor’s Regional Solution Team charged with community job creation  and local economic development.
Key advisors for priority issues include: Nancy Golden, Education; Scott Nelson, Jobs & Economy; Duke Shepard, Labor and Human Services; and previously announced Mike Bonetto, Healthcare.
Further appointments are pending, including legal counsel, affirmative action and natural resources advisor.
Curtis Robinhold – Chief of Staff
Mr. Robinhold has 15 years of policy and energy experience as an entrepreneur, business leader, financial officer, and policy advisor. Most recently he served as the Chief Executive Officer of EnergyRM, a financial services company focused on providing financial solutions for energy-related investments in large buildings. He has also served on the board of the Oregon Business Association. Mr. Robinhold lives in Portland with his wife, Angela Uherbelau and their young daughter.
Tim Raphael –Communications Director
Mr. Raphael will serve as Governor-elect Kitzhaber’s Communications Director.  Mr. Raphael’s 18-year career in Oregon politics, policy and communications includes senior-level experience in government, business and non-profit organizations.  He served as Chief-of-Staff to Metro Executive Officer Mike Burton, Government Affairs Director for Pacific Ethanol and most recently as Western Representative for the American Wind Energy Association.  Mr. Raphael lives in Portland with his wife, Kate, and three children.
Brian Shipley – Legislative Director
Mr. Shipley served as Governor Kulongoski’s Deputy Chief of Staff and Legislative Director Prior to that he worked for Senate President Peter Courtney as his Director of Legislation, and as Chief of Staff for Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown. Shipley graduated from Willamette University with a degree in politics and environmental science, and received his law degree from Georgetown University.
Kendall Clawson – Executive Appointments Director
Ms. Clawson will serve as Governor-elect Kitzhaber’s Executive Appointments Director. Ms. Clawson has worked in the non-profit arena for nearly 20 years, primarily in community development and non-profit management. Most recently she served as the Executive Director of the Q Center in Portland, metropolitan Portland’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Questioning (LGBTQ) community. Ms. Clawson has a Bachelor’s degree in Politics from the University of California, Santa Cruz. She lives in Portland with her spouse of 20 years, Michele and their two dogs Riley and Cody.
Cheryl Myers - Minority Women and Emerging Small Business Advocate
Ms. Myers will serve as Governor-elect Kitzhaber’s Minority Women and Emerging Small Business Advocate. Ms. Myers has been a business owner in Oregon for more than two decades. Ms. Myers is in her 7th year as a school board member for the North Clackamas School District and serves on numerous committees including the Diversity Task Force and Education Foundation. She’s also been president of her local Parent-Teacher-Student Association and she’s worked on her local school’s Site Council. Ms. Myers and her husband have two children.
Greg Wolf –Intergovernmental Relations Director
Mr. Wolf will serve as Governor-elect Kitzhaber’s Intergovernmental Relations Director. He brings more than 30 years of experience working in state and local government and expertise in collaborative processes. Mr. Wolf serves as Director of Portland State University's National Policy Consensus Center, home of Oregon Solutions and Oregon Consensus. He is also the Director of the Policy Consensus Initiative a non-partisan organization co-chaired by two former Governors and composed of elected officials from 15 States. Before leading NPCC, Mr. Wolf served for seven years as the Community Policy Advisor for Oregon Governor Kitzhaber. Mr.Wolf is a native Oregonian and as a graduate of the University of Oregon.
Nancy Golden – Education Advisor
Dr. Golden will serve as Governor-elect Kitzhaber’s Education Advisor. Dr. Golden will be on professional leave from her role as Superintendent of the Springfield School District. Before joining Springfield Public Schools, she was director of the administrative licensure program at the University of Oregon. She has also served as deputy superintendent in Albany School District and staff development and special education director in Eugene School District. In 2010, she received the Superintendent of the Year Award from the Confederation of Oregon School Administrators. Dr. Golden has been married to Roger Guthrie for 33 years and currently lives in Springfield. She has 2 children and 2 grandchildren.
Scott Nelson – Jobs & Economy Advisor
Mr. Nelson will serve as Governor-elect Kitzhaber’s Jobs & Economy Advisor. Mr. Nelson served as policy director to Governor Kitzhaber's 2010 gubernatorial campaign and transition team. Prior to that, Mr. Nelson worked for United States Senator Byron Dorgan, the U.S. Department of Energy, and as an attorney in the Washington, DC, and Portland offices of K&L Gates LLP.  Mr. Nelson was born and raised in Corvallis.
Duke Shepard – Labor and Human Services Advisor
Mr. Shepard will serve as Governor-elect Kitzhaber’s Labor and Human Services Advisor. Mr. Shepard worked for the Oregon AFL-CIO, where he directed the union federation’s grassroots political work and legislative program. Prior to the AFL-CIO, Mr. Shepard helped the Portland Business Alliance create a Regional Business Plan. Mr. Shepard lives in Portland with his wife Laura, and their daughter Graciela.
Mike Bonetto –Healthcare Advisor
Mr. Bonetto was previously announced as Governor-elect Kitzhaber’s Healthcare advisor. Mr. Bonetto was the Vice President of Business and Community Development for St. Charles Health System in Bend. Prior to that, Mr. Bonetto served as Senior Vice President of Planning and Development for Clear Choice Health Plans. His education includes a Bachelor of Arts from Occidental College, a Master of Science from California State University, Fullerton, a Master of Public Health and a Ph.D. in health policy from Oregon State University.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

Kitzhaber Planning Low-Key Inauguration

There are several reasons why John Kitzhaber might not be planning an over-the-top inauguration. First, there's a "been there, done that" factor. I wasn't around the capitol on January 9, 1995, the first time John Kitzhaber was sworn in as governor, but I suspect there was an air of excitement then that simply won't exist this time around.

Second, there's the grim economic outlook for the state. Who wants to party it up when there's a $3.5 billion deficit staring you in the face? (Or, who wants to be seen partying it up in those circumstances?)

And third, well, there's a football game to watch. Kitzhaber spokeswoman Amy Wojcicki says after taking the oath of office, Kitzhaber will attend a brief reception in the capitol rotunda, then retire to the governor's mansion with a small group of friends and family to watch the Oregon Ducks play in the BCS championship game.

So what is happening on Monday? Kitzhaber's website, as of this writing, yields no details. But here's what's on tap:  The House and the Senate will have separate organizational sessions first thing in the morning. (It's unclear how organized the House will be at that point, but that's a separate issue altogether.) Then, the House and the Senate will convene a joint session at 10:45. It's expected to last about 90 minutes and will include Kitzhaber's swearing in and his inaugural address. And other than the aforementioned reception, that's it. Wojcicki says Kitzhaber is planning an "informal" event this summer that will take the place of any inaugural ball this time around.