Friday, March 30, 2012

Oregon Analyst: State In "Uncharted Waters" With MegaMillions Sales

Josh Lehner at the Oregon Office of Economic Analysis has posted an interesting summary of what the current MegaMillions frenzy could mean for Oregon. Lehner notes that the state is in "uncharted waters" when it comes to the number of tickets being sold, noting that under current projections, "the number of tickets purchased this week will outnumber every man, woman and child in the state." In fact, Lehner is predicting that sales could near 7 million tickets, by far eclipsing the state's population.

But while the state takes in 50 cents of every dollar spent on MegaMillions tickets, it's not clear what a huge jackpot like the current $640 million haul means for the state's coffers. As you can see from the chart Lehner created, ticket sales drop off dramatically following a large jackpot. So the current largesse may be offset by several weeks of public disinterest.

But the state would clearly benefit if an Oregonian wins the current jackpot. Lehner estimates that if an Oregon taxpayer won, and chose the "lump sum" option, the state would receive approximately $46 million in taxes.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

A Photo Tour Of Mahonia Hall

The press is rarely invited into Mahonia Hall, which has served as the official residence of Oregon governors since 1988. So when I got the chance to tag along with crews checking radon monitors in the 88-year-old mansion's basement, I brought my camera. As it turned out, I didn't get any good shots of the basement, which actually looked like a lot of other basements I've seen, complete with a pool table. (A staffer on site said the table is rarely used.)

Anyhow, I snapped a few photos of the first floor:

And here's one of the exterior, which is looking a little spiffier than it did during this 1958 newspaper photo.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

GOP Hoping To Capitalize On Brown Election Decision

Oregon Republicans don't want people to forget about Secretary of State Kate Brown's decision to move the election for Labor Commissioner from May to November. A Marion County judge yesterday threw out a lawsuit from candidate Bruce Starr aimed at reversing Brown's decision. For Brown, it was a vindication of her interpretation of a relatively obscure clause buried deep in a measure passed overwhelmingly by Oregon lawmakers nearly 3 years ago.

It's hard to imagine that most Oregon voters could have told you when the election usually happens (much less what the Labor Commissioner even does in the first place). Still, the GOP is using the episode to drum up opposition to Brown, who is the only Democrat in statewide office to face Republican opposition this year. (The office of Labor Commissioner is technically non-partisan, though incumbent Brad Avakian is a former Democratic lawmaker and challenger Starr is a current Republican lawmaker).

Republicans, including state party chair Allen Alley, have taken to using the hashtag #KorruptKate on Twitter. The GOP is also circulating an online survey about the issue which also doubles as a way to harvest contact information from potential supporters. And the Republican who is challenging Brown, Knute Buehler, issued a series of statements blasting Brown for what he called "Chicago-style machine politics" and called her decision "either partisan manipulation...incompetence, or both."

Kate Brown's campaign website makes no mention of the controversy, but on her official Secretary of State blog, Brown writes that "the allegations about my character are outrageous and unfounded."

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Bruce Starr Voted Against Measure At Heart Of Election Move

At least GOP Senator Bruce Starr can say he voted against the 2009 measure that Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown cited in moving the election for Labor Commissioner from May to November. Starr is running against incumbent Brad Avakian, and neither candidate was aware of the switch until recently. Starr, upset at the change, filed an unsuccessful lawsuit against Brown in an attempt to move the election back to May. In making the change, Brown cited a one-sentence section buried deep in the 14-page long House Bill 2095 of the 2009 session:

SECTION 22a. Notwithstanding section 22 of this 2009 Act and ORS 651.030, the term of
office of the Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries elected at the general
election held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November 2012 shall be two

Whether you agree with Brown's decision depends on how you interpret that sentence. Previous elections for Labor Commissioner have been held in May. But at least for Starr, he doesn't have the potential embarrassment of having voted for the measure that--in Brown's view--authorized the switch. Starr was one of just three lawmakers to vote against the bill on final passage. But neither Starr nor any other opponent spoke against the measure when it was brought to the Senate floor, so it's not clear why he opposed it at the time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Rep. Tomei Uses "Shut Your Mouth" Moment To Raise Cash

A Democratic state representative who was unceremoniously told to shut up by another lawmaker during a floor debate is turning the awkward moment into a fundraising pitch. After Republican Wayne Krieger's outburst, Carolyn Tomei protested to the House presiding officers and penned an op-ed in the Oregonian. This week, she sent out a fundraising email with the subject line: "CAROLYN TOMEI will never SHUT HER MOUTH when standing up for YOU!"

Tomei writes:

Shut your mouth!

Imagine my shock as I spoke on the Floor of the Oregon House of Representatives and was told —for the first time in my life —“shut your mouth” by a male Republican legislator on the House Floor. 

The loss of civility in our state only compounds the difficulties we face in recovering from this economic recession. And that kind of behavior must stop now.

I am a legislator representing the people of Oregon.  I have a voice, and I will not be silent because someone does not want to hear what I have to say.  I speak for you.  I speak for the people of Oregon. I speak for
myself. And I will never shut my mouth.

Tomei then includes a link to a page where people can donate money to her campaign. It's not clear how much she'll need the cash. She faces no opposition in the Democratic primary this May. And the two Republicans vying for the right to challenge her in the general election have less than $1000 in their campaign war chests combined. (One, Sam Cantrell, has less than $20 cash on hand. Among his assets are several 5 cent "in-kind contributions.") In 2010, Tomei garnered more than 75% of the vote in her suburban Milwaukie district.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

GOP's Open Primary Offer Stands, Despite Lack Of Contests

The Oregon Secretary of State's office is preparing to spend $200,000 to carry out the Oregon Republican Party's wishes to open its May primary to non-affiliated voters. The party's offer only applies to three statewide races: Secretary of State, Treasurer and Attorney General--and not to the Presidential primary or state legislative races.

When the offer was extended last month, it wasn't clear how many candidates would be on the ballot for non-affiliated voters to choose from. The answer, as it turns out, is hardly any. In fact, those non-affiliated voters won't have a single contested race to help decide. Only one--the Secretary of State's primary--has even a single Republican candidate on the ballot. No Republicans at all filed to run for Attorney General or Treasurer.

Nevertheless, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown is moving ahead, as required by statute, in carrying out the Republican Party's request. To do so, her office is preparing to mail the state's roughly 428,000 non-affiliated voters a postcard this month, letting them know how to request a "partial Republican primary ballot." To participate, those voters will have to submit that postcard--which serves as a request form--to their county clerk's office by April 24. According to the Secretary of State's office, the cost of preparing and mailing the postcards adds up to approximately $200,000.

Of course, despite a shortage of actual candidates, non-affiliated and registered Republicans alike will still be able to cast a write-in ballot. In the 2008 primary, for instance, when--like this year--no Republican was on the primary ballot for Attorney General, nearly 3,000 GOP voters wrote in the name of John Kroger, who was then seeking the Democratic nomination against Greg Macpherson. Kroger scored a double victory by beating Macpherson and locking up the Republican nomination on the strength of those write-in votes. The same scenario, with a different candidate, could conceivably happen this year as two Democrats--Dwight Holton and Ellen Rosenblum--are competing for the Democratic nomination.

UPDATE:  The Oregon Republican Party issued a press release late Thursday blasting Secretary of State Kate Brown for the method she's using to carry out the party's request for a partial open primary. I won't rehash their arguments here, but needless to say it's clear that the party is uncomfortable with the idea that $200,000 in taxpayer money is being spent to conduct an uncontested election on their behalf.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Senator Atkinson's Final Floor Speech

Now that it appears that Republican Senator Jason Atkinson won't be returning to the capitol next year, it seems fitting to take a listen to what could very well have been his final floor speech as an Oregon lawmaker. Atkinson is known around the capitol for his knowledge and appreciation of Oregon political history. As the Senate concluded its business last evening, Atkinson treated his fellow lawmakers to a brief reading out of the record of Senate proceedings from March 13, 1939.

As you will hear, it turned out to be quite the day:

  Atkinson sine die speech by Chris Lehman

Indeed, Atkinson's tale is reflected in the Oregon State Archives, which notes that Senator George T. Eayrs "collapsed and died" during the afternoon session of March 13, 1939. You have to think, however, that if the same thing happened these days, the chamber would break for more than 15 minutes!

Kitzhaber, Legislative Leaders Speak

This morning, Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber and legislative leaders held a post-session press conference in the governor's ceremonial office at the capitol. The complete audio is below, except for a brief break in the middle when Kitzhaber and the presiding officers signed two bills. The speakers, in order, were Governor Kitzhaber, House Republican Co-Speaker Bruce Hanna, House Democratic Co-Speaker Arnie Roblan, and Senate President Peter Courtney. At the end, the governor fielded several questions from reporters.

  Kitzhaber press conf 3-6-12 by Chris Lehman

Monday, March 5, 2012

Ever Wanted To See A Sine Die In Person?

There are no guarantees of anything in the Oregon Legislature, but there's a better-than-middling chance of Sine Die occurring sometime this evening. Deals have been made, agendas posted. A slate of budget bills and a handful of policy bills are scheduled for committee action this afternoon. Then, the House returns to the floor at 4 and the Senate at 4:30.

But since all of the remaining measures would require floor votes in both chambers in order to be sent to the governor, it's a good bet that lawmakers will be here through--and past--the dinner hour. The waning hours of most sessions are marked by long periods of sitting around waiting "for paperwork to catch up."

That has the potential to be boring for casual onlookers, but lawmakers often find ways to fill the time. Sometimes they honor members who won't be returning for the next session (there are several in both chambers). Other times they pontificate on whatever crosses their mind. At any rate, when the final gavel falls it likely won't be as dramatic as it is at the end of a full-length session, but it will be a Moment nonetheless.

Need more of an incentive? The parking meters outside the capitol are free after 6.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Courtney's Tantrum: Hear It Here

Senate President Peter Courtney threw a self-described "minor temper tantrum" this afternoon, upset that the House adjourned for the day, meaning the session will continue until at least tomorrow. While the Democrat is known for his theatrics, his outburst today was unusually terse. Take a listen:

  Courtney's tantrum by Chris Lehman