Friday, September 30, 2011

More Than Half Of Oregon House Has Filed For Re-election Already

While it's true that several House Democrats have announced they won't be returning to Salem in 2013, the truth is that most state reps from both parties intend to try. In the first three weeks of the filing season, more than half of the members of the current Oregon House have filed for re-election--31, to be precise. And when you factor in the four incumbents who definitely aren't running again (Mary Nolan, Jefferson Smith, Jean Cowan, and Dave Hunt), as well as Brad Witt--who is running for Congress, but could still seek re-election if he's unsuccessful in the upcoming CD-1 Special Election--then you really have 31 out of 55 incumbents who have already filed. (Ben Cannon is also not running for re-election, but I don't include him here since he has already resigned his seat and will soon be replaced by Alissa Keny-Guyer, who will be sworn in next Tuesday.)

Over in the Senate, seven out of the 15 incumbents up for re-election have filed. So far, no senators have said they won't run again. (Suzanne Bonamici is running for Congress, but her seat is not up for re-election next year.)

Another note:  So far, sitting lawmakers have not drawn much opposition. Just nine non-incumbents have filed to run for the state legislature. But political hopefuls have until next March to decide.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Wolves Caught On Tape, Sort Of

Have you ever lay shivering in your tent on a cold fall night on the side of a mountain in eastern Oregon, listening with a mixture of fascination and fear as a pack of wolves howls at the moon just outside your campsite?

Well, I haven't. But I'm thinking it probably doesn't sound like this:

That's the sound of protesters this morning in front of the headquarters of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife in Salem. They were objecting to a recent decision by the agency to kill two wolves in an eastern Oregon pack. Two of the group's members attached themselves to the building's front doors using bicycle "U-locks," preventing anyone from entering or exiting using that route. (Staff and visitors could come and go using a side entrance that's not normally open to the public.) After about 90 minutes, state police removed the door handles, thereby thwarting the activists' blockade. The two demonstrators at the door were arrested without incident, and charged with Criminal Trespass in the Second Degree, Disorderly Conduct and "Obstructing Governmental or Judicial Administration." Photos of the demonstration are below.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Kitzhaber Not The Only Governor With Asia On His Mind

Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber returned on Friday from a 13-day trade mission to Japan, South Korea and China. But while Kitzhaber used the trip to promote Oregon businesses, he's by no means the only governor who sees enormous potential on the far side of the Pacific. As Michigan Radio reports, there are enough state leaders in Asia this fall to form a subcommittee of the National Governors Association.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Dave Hunt To Run For Clackamas County Chair

Democrat Dave Hunt said today that he won't seek a sixth term in the Oregon House. The former Speaker, who was bounced from his role as caucus chair at the end of the 2011 session, is announcing a run for Clackamas County Chair. Hunt, who just returned from a legislative trade mission to China, told me this morning that he plans to serve out the remainder of his current term in the House.

Hunt's impending departure raises the number of House Democrats who have announced they won't be seeking re-election to four. Jefferson Smith is running for Portland mayor; Mary Nolan is running for Portland City Council, and Jean Cowan is retiring. Additionally, Brad Witt is running for Congress in the Special Election in Congressional District 1. If he wins, he'd have to give up his House seat. Thus far no Republicans have announced their departure from the legislature, but Representative Bob Jenson and Senator David Nelson are both reportedly interested in being appointed to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Kitzhaber, Hanna On Chinese Television

"John Kitzhaber, Oregon governor of USA" and "Bruce Hanna, Co-Speaker of the House of Oregon state" appeared on a Chinese television news program over the weekend. The two political leaders were grilled on everything from US-China trade policy to President Obama's re-election chances. Kitzhaber and Hanna largely avoided wading into the most controversial issues, noting that most trade policies are set at a federal level.

Hanna is part of a delegation of Oregon lawmakers that's heading home today after a two-week trade mission  to China. Kitzhaber traveled to China separately, meeting up with the legislative delegation in Beijing after making earlier stops in Japan and South Korea. The governor will be in China until Friday, when he's scheduled to return home to Oregon.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

SEIU, University System Reach Deal

After a marathon 19-hour bargaining session, negotiators with the Oregon University System and the SEIU reached a tentative 2-year deal early this morning. The agreement averts a possible strike by nearly 4000 classified (i.e. "front-line") university employees. Details of the deal will be revealed to union members at a series of meetings this afternoon can be read by clicking this link. In a statement, OUS Chancellor George Pernsteiner said, “Our thanks go out to all members of both bargaining teams for their hard work towards reaching an agreement. The OUS classified staff are an integral part of all of our campuses and our collective work to help students achieve success at our universities.”

The agreement is tentative and will be voted on by union members in the coming weeks.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Get Out Your Cue Sticks!

This afternoon's insurance rate increase hearing by the Oregon Insurance Division wasn't the most scintillating hour of my life, but I couldn't help but notice how ODS calculates its health insurance rates. Here are some pointers, in case you want to pay less.

It's Furlough Time Again

For the second straight biennium, most Oregon agencies will close on 10 workdays as state workers take a series of unpaid furlough days. The first of these in the current budget cycle is this Friday, September 16. You can see a list of the remaining furlough days, as well as which agencies will be closed, by clicking on this link.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Floodwaters Threaten PA Governor's Mansion

Mahonia Hall, the official residence of Oregon governors, is certainly not prone to flooding. The mansion is located in one of the highest sections of Salem. Pennsylvania's governor is not so lucky. Due to rising flood waters along the Susquehanna River, the residence is being evacuated today. According to one account, Governor Tom Corbett and his wife are helping to move items out of harm's way.

And They're Off! First 2012 Candidates File

It didn't take long for the first candidate to file for the 2012 election cycle. According to the Secretary of State's online database, Republican state representative Greg Smith filed papers to run for office at 8:02 this morning, just two minutes after the filing period began. Smith, who hails from the eastern Oregon town of Heppner, is seeking a seventh term in office. During the previous election cycle, he was one of two eastern Oregon Republicans (Bob Jenson was the other) who faced primary challenges after Republican party officials expressed dismay about their votes on a pair of tax increases in the legislature. Smith handily won re-election, and he's wasting no time in showing that he's up for another term. (Jenson's margin of victory in the primary was closer. It's not clear whether he will return for another term.)

As of this writing, Smith is the only legislative candidate to file so far. (A judicial candidate from Tigard also filed this morning.) But there's no particular rush. Candidates for all open offices in the May 2012 primary have until next March to get their names on the ballot.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Perry Leads Oregon GOP Straw Poll

Texas governor Rick Perry is the favorite presidential candidate among Oregon Republicans, if the ongoing straw poll voting at the Oregon State Fair is any indication. Perry has far and away the most votes. Former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney is in a distant second. Following Romney there's a tight race for third between Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Ron Paul.

Unlike at its far more famous counterpart in Iowa, voting in the straw poll at the Oregon State Fair won't set you back $30. Casting a "ballot" is free, though you do have pay to enter the fair itself. Voting continues through the end of the fair, though Oregon Republican Party field director Kevin Hoar says the day-to-day results have not changed significantly. And while there's nothing to prevent someone from coming back and voting multiple times, Hoar says that volunteers on duty at the booth have seen no evidence of ballot box stuffing.