Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Meet Capitol AIDE

Visitors to the capitol during the upcoming legislative session will have a new high-tech tool to help them find their way around. Just outside the door to the Senate chambers is a new gadget that legislative officials are calling "Capitol AIDE." It's a large touch-screen display that allows users to find hearing rooms, browse agendas, and look up bills--though only by measure number. (For now, the kiosk doesn't have a keyword search.) For the time being, Capitol AIDE will supplement--not replace--the time-honored tradition of posting committee agendas on a bulletin board outside the door of each chamber. As a rule, all of the information on Capitol AIDE is also available on the legislative website.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Peter Courtney Really, Really Wants The February Session To Work

Senate President Peter Courtney thinks much is riding on the success of next month's session of the Oregon legislature. At a preview today sponsored by the Associated Press for the state's media, Courtney told the assembled reporters and editors that he's deeply concerned that the session go well, especially from a sheer logistical standpoint. Once the opening gavel falls on February 1st, lawmakers will have no time to waste as a new deadline will crop up every few days. (See page 2 of this pdf for the hurry-up schedule.)

The session is historic since it's the first Constitutionally mandated session in what would normally have been an off-year. Voters in November of 2010 overwhelmingly approved removing Oregon from the small list of states where legislatures meet just once every two years. That vote, said Courtney, means the bar is extremely high for Oregon lawmakers next month:

While lawmakers had called themselves into special sessions in February of 2008 and 2010, those were "exhibitions" compared to this, said Courtney. The 68-year-old Democrat says a successful February session will send an important message to the rest of the country that government in Oregon is not disfunctional:

While lawmakers have up to 35 days to complete business (before running into the voter-approved Constitutional deadline), the goal at this point is to finish up in 29 days; that is, by the end of February.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

No, Elmer Fudd Was Not An Oregon Politician

Here's a fun diversion: The Salem-Keizer School District is holding two public forums this month to decide on names for a pair of new elementary schools. Earlier, the district solicited suggestions from the community about what to name the new schools. From this list of suggested names, how many current or former Oregon politicians can you spot? There are at least five former governors (though poor Robert Holmes' name was misspelled by his nominator) and at least two Supreme Court chief justices. And there are several others' whose names appeared on an Oregon ballot but aren't from Oregon, per se. Of course, it's possible that district officials may decide to name the schools after Brandon Roy, Steve Jobs, or Elmer Fudd...just a few of the more colorful suggestions.

And Heekin Makes Three

Katherine Heekin, the Portland attorney who announced today that's she's running for Oregon Attorney General, has actually raised more money so far than her two competitors for the Democratic nomination, according to campaign finance disclosures. Former U.S. Attorney for Oregon, Dwight Holton, kicked off his campaign yesterday and so far hasn't reported any campaign contributions. Former judge Ellen Rosenblum announced her candidacy last week, and in the space of just over a week, raised a nifty $15,000. But Heekin, who actually started fundraising last November, tops them both. She's pulled in more than $17,000 so far. [UPDATE: Heekin's campaign manager, Jayme Rabenberg, tells me that several recent contributions have not been reported yet to the state's campaign finance database, meaning that Heekin's total is actually closer to $20,000. It's worth pointing out that the other candidates may have as-yet reported contributions as well.]

So far no Republicans have announced their intention to run. The last time the GOP fielded a candidate for Oregon Attorney General was in 2004, when Paul Connolly managed just 40% of the vote against incumbent Hardy Myers. The Attorney General's race is wide-open this year since John Kroger announced last fall that he wouldn't seek a second term, citing unspecified health issues.

Monday, January 9, 2012

A Tale Of Two (Or Three) Sessions

Oregon's brief 2012 legislative session won't get underway until February 1st. But lawmakers to our north in Olympia kicked things off today for a 60-day session that could have its share of drama. My colleague Austin Jenkins reports that Washington state lawmakers could be taking on some thorny policy matters.  In Oregon, on the other hand, the conventional wisdom is that the 35-day session that's on tap this year will be too short to take on anything beyond budget matters (which could be tricky enough as it is.)

Of course, during the last "off-year" session in Oregon, lawmakers duked it out over the non-fiscal issue of banning the chemical BPA in children's beverage containers. That effort fell short, but came back with force in the 2011 regular session...before falling short once again. But it just goes to show that anytime lawmakers come to Salem, all bets are off.

Meanwhile, lawmakers in Idaho also came back to town today. Our public radio friends in Boise have put together the "Ultimate Guide on the Economy for Idaho's 2012 Legislative Session."