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Entries in Dennis Richardson (10)


Hats and Cattle, Saddles and Horses

Clever political campaign phrases with a bite have been known to influence elections. It's possible a clever catch phrase will have an impact on the 2014 Oregon gubernatorial election.

Walter Mondale turned the popular advertising slogan of his day — "Where's the beef?" — into a political jab at Democratic presidential primary rival Gary Hart. The question halted Hart's momentum and helped Mondale earn his party's nomination in 1984.

Lloyd Bentsen skewered Dan Quayle in their 1988 vice presidential debate after the Indiana senator likened his political experience to that of former President John F. Kennedy. Bentsen replied, "I served with Jack Kennedy. I knew Jack Kennedy. Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator, you're no Jack Kennedy." Bentsen won the debate and even though Quayle became vice president, he never factored seriously into GOP presidential politics again.

Ross Perot, running as an independent for President, struck a nerve when he said, "I don't have any experience in running up a $4 trillion debt." An exasperated Perot struck a different kind of nerve later when he would screech, "Let me finish!" Comedian Dana Carvey never let the phrase die a graceful death as Perot's popularity plummeted.

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A Ho-Hum Election with Interesting Implications

In an election overshadowed by a court ruling outlawing same-sex marriage discrimination, only three out of 10 Oregonians bothered to fill out and send in ballots. For Democrats, it was a ho-hum primary, but for Republicans, it was a battle for what some called "the soul of the GOP."

Little unexpected occurred at the state level, but there were some dramatic and interesting decisions at the local level. Clackamas County voters retained two commissioners facing a challenge, Multnomah County voters overwhelmingly elected a new chair and commissioner. Washington County voters returned three incumbent commissioners, including two who faced vigorous challengers from the political left.

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Kitzhaber, Courtney Legacies Grow

The successful five-bill, three-day Oregon special legislative session will enhance John Kitzhaber's legacy as governor. It also signals a constructive working relationship between House Speaker Tina Kotek and GOP Leader Mike McLane. And the session provided campaign platforms for Reps. Dennis Richardson and Jules Bailey.

Almost lost in the shuffle was Senator Peter Courtney's win in establishing a dedicated funding source for expanded community mental health programs, which was his top priority before the start of the 2013 regular legislative session.

News coverage of the conclusion of the special session Wednesday showed a beaming Kitzhaber. For good reason. He took the tatters of a budget deal left on the cutting room floor in the waning hours of the regular session and wove them into a complicated deal that will result in more money going to K-12 schools and higher education. 

Kitzhaber's unwavering confidence he could find common ground among skeptical House Democrats and legislative Republicans stands in sharp contrast to his defeatist views expressed at the end of his second term of governor. His third term has been an unbroken string of negotiating successes that prove Oregon can be governed after all. And he gets much of the credit.

The Oregonian's Friday edition challenged Kitzhaber now to turn his attention and political capital to comprehensive tax reform, a goal that has eluded him as well as many of his predecessors. Hopefully, The Oregonian will forgive Kitzhaber if he takes the weekend off before starting his new quest.

The Kotek-McLane tandem held together well and under extreme political pressure. To make the multiple-bill compromise work, all five bills had to pass for any to survive. Kotek and McLane knew it would take different cross-sections of lawmakers from both party caucuses to pass the most controversial measures dealing with taxation, PERS cuts and a local pre-emption on genetically modified crops.

Only 22 out of 90 lawmakers voted for all five measures. Kotek and McLane were two of them. More important, they showed they could deliver key votes when it counted. The tax measure, a combination of increases and cuts, began in the House and came up three votes short. Kotek delayed declaring the final vote until she mustered three votes — all from her Democratic caucus.

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The Ungubernatorial Candidates

Two Republicans — Rep. Dennis Richardson and businessman Jon Justesen — have declared for governor and the Democratic incumbent is weighing whether to seek an unprecedented fourth term.

But what's more remarkable is the long list of people who aren’t showing any signs of running in 2014, even though the gubernatorial primary is now just nine months away.

One reason for reticence is the status of Governor Kitzhaber, who remains popular, but hasn’t decided whether to go for another term. Because of his name familiarity, he can afford to wait, keeping challengers cooling their heels.

But indecision often can be all the bait some eager beavers need to step forward as potential candidates and see whether any winds collect in their political sails.

Here is a quick look at who is definitely not running and who might be lurking in the weeds if Kitzhaber decides to focus on his own personal Happiness Index:

Definitely Out

  • Unsuccessful 2010 GOP gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley, who has moved out of Oregon.
  • Oregon Congressman Greg Walden, who has risen steadily in the U.S. House leadership ranks and sees no good reason to sacrifice that for a gubernatorial run, at least at this stage of his political career.
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5 Pitfalls to Avoid for Successful Special Session

Governor Kitzhaber is making headlines as he tries to put together a deal on PERS cuts and revenue enhancement for legislative consideration in a special session sometime this fall.

Trying to find a legislative path to increase revenue or change PERS is tough enough during a regular session. To assemble a deal on both — in the interim — and call legislators back into special session to pass it is a herculean task at best.  

Kitzhaber's track record of success on big ticket items, along with his depth of experience in Oregon policymaking, gives him a head start, but there are at least five key pitfalls he should avoid as he traverses this difficult path.

1. 45 to 36, 23 to 18 — Oregon law requires 36 votes in the House and 18 votes in the Senate to pass any measure that raises revenue. But the math is never that simple when it comes to finding enough votes to pass a revenue raiser. A good rule of thumb is it will take three-fourths of the body in favor of a measure to find the three-fifths necessary to pass it. Kitzhaber has a lot of votes to find to pass this conceptual package.

2.  Special sessions aren't short, regular sessions — A special session is not just a short version of a regular session; it's a horse of a completely different color. Unlike regular sessions, the only bill (or bills) at stake are the topics for which the session is convened. Rank-and-file legislators generally have little to do but vote and are prone to a particular version of grumpiness about a lack of shared information and/or decision-making about the bills in play. Most important, individual members do not have individual bills at stake, making negotiations on the central issue even more difficult. No one knows this better than Kitzhaber, who was part of five special sessions in 2002.

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Seeking Opinions on an Oregon Drivers' Card

Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, is known for having a point of view on many subjects. But his recent online newsletter to constituents reflects indecision on how to vote next week on hotly debated legislation to allow undocumented residents to obtain something called an Oregon drivers' card.

"I could argue this issue either way," he says. "Instead, let me give you both sides of the issue and ask for your opinion." 

Richardson's newsletter does a good job laying out both sides of the argument on Senate Bill 833, introduced in the Senate with bipartisan support and which passed this week by a lopsided 20-7 vote.

He starts off by describing what the bill actually does — gives people who can document their identity, prove they have lived in Oregon for at least a year and pass a written and driving test an Oregon Drivers' Card that is good for up to four years. The fees for drivers' cards must cover the entire cost of the program.

Proponents of SB 833 say there are thousands of undocumented residents in Oregon who drive to work and school illegally because they cannot qualify for an Oregon drivers' license. The absence of a valid drivers' license disqualifies them from obtaining legally required auto insurance.

Richardson notes undocumented residents also include elderly persons without birth certificates or other documents needed to obtain a drivers' license.

The proposed Oregon drivers' card only would be valid for non-commercial vehicles and could not be used as identification, for example, to board an airplane or buy a gun. Drivers' cards, like drivers' licenses, would be recorded so law enforcement officers could check on driving records for speeding tickets or alcohol-related offenses, which is not possible now.

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Republicans Face Uphill Challenge for Control

The battleground for control of the Oregon House and Senate in 2013 is narrow, with perhaps as few as a handful of races to determine which party holds the gavel. It appears Republicans have the most challenging terrain to regain control.

House Republicans surged from a 24-36 deficit in the 2009 session to win six suburban seats, forcing a 30-30 power-sharing agreement in the 2011 and 2012 sessions. Now Republicans have to stand those six seats and pick up at least one more in a swing district to control the House

Control of the Senate more or less boils down to the open Senate seat on the Southern Oregon Coast being vacated by the retirement of Senator Joanne Verger, D-Coos Bay. Unless political wisdom is turned upside down, the seat should stay in Democratic hands with House Co-Speaker Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, winning it.

Jeff Mapes, senior political reporter for The Oregonian, narrowed the contest for control of the House to 10 races. But mid-summer, after fundraising totals and polling results are analyzed, that number probably will dwindle to four or five.

The three GOP freshmen viewed as most vulnerable by Democrats are Reps. Patrick Sheehan of Clackamas, Katie Eyre of Hillsboro and Julie Parrish of West Linn. All have credible, hardworking Democratic opponents.

Republican hopes for pick-ups center on two coastal House seats — Roblan's, which he is vacating to run for the Senate, and Jean Cowan's, which will be open following her retirement. GOP operatives also believe Rep. Betty Komp, D-Woodburn, could be upset with a repeat opponent, Kathy LeCompte, who reportedly is working harder than she did in 2010. She will have to work pretty hard to keep up with Komp.

Two races a little less under the political radar involve Rep. Matt Wand, R-Troutdale, and Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, who have attracted significant opponents. Barker, who has hinted at retirement after the last two sessions, will face GOP newcomer Manual Castenada, whom many observers believe could be a rising GOP political star. Barker, a former Oregon State and Portland police officer, has earned bipartisan respect for his leadership on the House Judiciary Committee.

Control of the House and Senate determines who chairs committees and what legislation will be heard or buried. It also is part of the larger political jockeying with a popular governor in the middle of his third term.

Behind the races on the ballot is political hand-wrestling for dominance in respective caucuses. Here, the most intriguing news is in the House and Senate GOP caucuses. Some observers report a possible competition between more conservative elements of the House GOP caucus and House Co-Speaker Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, and his close ally, Rep. Kevin Cameron, R-Salem. If Republicans take control of the House, it might make little political difference. However, if Democrats take control, the conservatives in the caucus may press for more vocal opposition.

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Solid Recovery with No Momentum

State revenues were up slightly, but the latest quarterly economic forecast released today in Salem shows Oregon's economy is headed upward at a frustratingly slow pace. The state economist said Oregon's recovery is on solid footing, but lacks momentum.

Increased revenues of $116 million were welcome news to nervous legislators meeting at the Capitol, but most of the increase came from a legal settlement, not economic growth. Personal income tax collections were actually down $22 million, while corporate tax receipts grew a slim $.2 million from the previous quarterly forecast. Lottery proceeds also registered a gain.

Those meager results were framed by news that the Kitzhaber administration is lopping off 190 positions in various state agencies. Many of the eliminated positions are vacant, but there will be some layoffs. In their February session, lawmakers directed the governor to identify $28 million in savings by reducing the number of managers, consultants and public relations positions.

While no one is happy with the rate of growth, the state's economy at least isn't going in reverse. Oregon's unemployment stands at 8.6 percent, higher than the national average of 8.2 percent, but a significant drop from the 9.6 percent rate a year ago. Portland's jobless rate has continued to inch down to 7.9 percent.

One bright spot in the economic forecast was the continued rise in exports from Oregon, but even that good news cast a shadow. Exports grew in 2011 by 3.5 percent, just a fraction of the 18.6 percent growth rate seen in 2010.

The not-much-changed revenue forecast probably means lawmakers are off the hook, at least for now, to make deeper spending cuts. However, legislative budget-writers are bracing for more cuts down the line as costs continue to rise while revenues remain stagnant. Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, said the forecast is another reminder state spending needs to be reduced to fit within anticipated revenues.

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Three Down – Only 26 to Go

As legislators headed home Friday to gear up for a second week in Salem, it was difficult for anyone accurately to describe the activities of the first three days because things moved much faster than normal at the Capitol — especially for opening days of a legislative session.

There was a crush of business as committees posted hearings on a large number of bills that probably will go nowhere. It prompted a lot of scurrying around, as lobbyists tried to figure what had a chance of passage and what didn't.

Three major "reforms" proposed by Governor Kitzhaber — education, health care and early learning — began moving down paths toward probable approval later this month. If you were betting, you would say the governor would win, but not without push-back by some Republicans who believe change is moving too fast for anyone to accommodate.

A so-called "budget deal" announced on the second day of the session last Thursday produced a bit of buzz, plus a couple headlines, but no one was sure about the real scope or impact of the deal. It turned out to be a "budget re-balance" plan, which means it represented an attempt by Joint Ways and Means Committee leaders to solve internal problems in the budget that had emerged in the last six months since adjournment last June.

The re-balance plan didn't address the current shortfall in state tax revenue, which has been pegged at about $305 million. Nor did the plan address any new revenue shortfall, which could be announced Wednesday when the state economist releases the latest revenue forecast at a joint meeting of the House and Senate Revenue Committees. It also prompted criticism of the Ways and Means co-chairs who took some of a recent Phillip Morris tobacco tax court-ordered payment — about $56 million — and applied most of it to the general budget deficit, not, as proposed, to funding for crime victims. Such is the stuff of Ways and Means.  Money ostensibly for one purpose is swept for another purpose.

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Murky Jargon Blurs Budget Clarity

A headline in The Oregonian several weeks ago made the point that murky words get in the way of public understanding of health care reform issues. An Oregonian editorial last weekend urged Governor Kitzhaber to do a better job of sketching the details of his vision of education and health care reform. 

Murkiness also exists when it comes to general budget issues as legislators head to their first official annual session two weeks from now.

Consider these facts/perceptions about the budget:

         *  The state economist says the general fund is down by $305 million from the close of the 2011 legislative session. On a total general fund budget of more than $14 billion for a biennium, that is a rounding factor. Still, perceptions exist that cuts to K-12, higher education, cops and prisons and social services will be in the offing during the February session.

         *  One key legislator on the Joint Ways and Means Human Services Subcommittee was spending time in his office several weeks ago preparing a cut list of about $500 million. Those cuts, if enacted, would exceed the total $305 million revenue drop projected so far. 

         *  Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point, House co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Committee, took credit earlier this fall for holding back a "reasonable ending balance of $460 million when the committee he co-chairs approved the 2011-13 budget." In his on-line newsletter, he added this noteworthy quote:  "...the good news is that having withstood the political pressure to spend every dollar and by retaining the $460 million ending balance, none of the $305 million of reduced revenue will be taken from the budgets for public safety, human services or education."

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