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Entries in Legislative leadership (9)


How to Rate a Legislature

It's human nature to rate things, including legislative sessions. But what should you rate and why is it important?The end of every legislative session brings on the desire to "rate" a legislature.  From media outlets to advocacy organizations, the end of session report card or evaluation tool for a legislature is largely based on the ability of a legislature to deliver on the priorities of the organization producing the report card than on the actual performance of the legislature.

Perhaps, it would be better to characterize the end-of-session rating as a reflection on the ability of the media or organization to influence the outcome of a session instead of a reflection on the legislature itself.  This, however, is much less satisfying to the clients who receive reports of work from exhausted lobbyists or editorial boards who would prefer to opine judge legislators on their ability to produce results without the responsibility to actually advocate for them.

Thus, measuring or grading legislative performance is a truly difficult task. As a starting tool, one should look to what the Oregon Constitution requires of legislatures. They must meet annually and approve a balanced budget. Very little else is required of the legislature in the Constitution. In fact, much of Article IV that governs the legislature is about what the legislature cannot do instead of what they should do. Our founding fathers (and mothers) knew that legislatures would find a way to legislate as much as they could, so better not to direct them, just limit them.

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The Battle for the Gavel

As legislative candidates hit the hustings, some are plotting who will hold key leadership positions when the Oregon legislature convenes in 2013.The general election is a month away, but the plot is already thickening over who will be in control in the Oregon legislature after all the votes are counted. What's happening out of public sight is a combination of inside baseball and roller derby.

If Democrats regain control of the Oregon House, there appears little doubt Portland Rep. Tina Kotek will ascend to become House Speaker. Rep. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, who served as co-speaker in the 2011 and 2012 sessions, is running for an open Senate seat.

The bigger question is who takes over for Kotek as Democratic leader. Rep. Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, is the only declared candidate, but rumors have circulated that Rep. Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, is considering a bid for the post, which is complicated by his departure from Nike and search for a new job. 

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Senator Starr takes national leadership position

Veteran Oregon senator, Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro, has been named the vice president of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bi-partisan organization that represents more than 7,300 state lawmakers and legislative staff members.  He took officer in San Antonio, Texas on August 11 and, after serving one year as vice president, is in line to become president-elect in 2012 and president in 2013.
Senator Bruce Starr, R-Hillsboro
Here's is what Starr said about his election.

“As legislators, we are keenly aware of the challenges our states and the nation are facing,” said Starr. “NCSL’s strength is in its bi-partisan approach and commitment to representing all the states’ interests. This leadership role is more important now than ever before. I’m grateful for the opportunity to serve.”

Starr is in his third term representing Oregon’s 15th Senate district. He has been actively involved in NCSL for more than a decade, including service on NCSL’s 60-member Executive Committee. He has held numerous NCSL positions, starting with the Elections Reform Task Force formed in the wake of the 2000 Bush/Gore presidential election. He chaired the NCSL Transportation Committee and the Working Group on the Federal Surface Transportation Act Reauthorization. He also served on NCSL’s Executive Committee’s Working Group on Committee Structure and Policy Development Process; the Public Private Partnerships Transportation Working Group; and the Deficit Reduction Task Force.

In the legislature here, he has won plaudits as the go-to Republican for transportation issues -- and, that, in fact, may be why he has made his mark at NCSL.


A Look at 2011 Legislative Leaders

Much has been written about the just-completed 2011 session of the Oregon legislature, but perhaps not enough about the key political personalities who drove the process and will be in charge when legislators reconvene next february.

Here's our take on key leaders:

Legislative leaders 

Sen. Peter Courtney (left) and Reps. Arnie Roblan and Bruce HannaThe three top presiding officers – Sen. Peter Courtney, D-Keizer; Rep. Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay; and Rep. Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg – have received a lot of credit for the reasonable conduct of legislative affairs this session.  They deserve it.  Their personalities, very different individually, meshed well and they combined to avoid the acrimony of the 2009 session. No doubt the nearly even split in control – 30 to 30 in the House and 16 to 14 for Democrats in the Senate left no choice but to reach agreement or get nothing done. That left The Oregonian to posit that split control should be the new norm in legislative sessions.

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Grading The Legislative Session: Probably B

At the risk of sounding like a teacher, I would give the legislature about a B grade this session.

Last Thursday at about 2:45 p.m. — a reasonable hour by past standards — the session closed to the normal huzzahs for a job well done. To be sure, the legislature can take credit for accomplishments in the areas of education, health care and redistricting.

In a House marked by split control for the first time in Oregon's history, it would be normal to count the accomplishments; each side was equally in charge, so each would get the credit or the debit.

In the Senate, Republicans, who were in the minority by one vote, came across as more critical, especially in regard to their session-long complaint that there was not enough focus on job creation.

Here are a few perceptions about the legislative session beyond the education, health care and redistricting subjects:

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Bi-Partisanship and Civility: The First Signs of Fracture?

That could be true based on several events last week – and it also could be true as legislators come face-to-face with the tough decisions they knew would dominate this session.

First, in a very unusual development last week, Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, took to the House floor to lambast Democratic leader Rep. Dave Hunt, D-Gladstone.

As The Oregonian put it: "Standing on the House floor, his hands shaking with nerves and anger, Republican Rep. Kennemer accused Democrats of 'lies, lies,' and then demanded the resignation of Rep. Hunt, the Democratic leader and former speaker."

This is unusual because there is a written code, and also a longstanding tradition, to avoid personal attacks on the House floor. Kennemer was interrupted once in his remarks, but then was able to continue to the end. He called for Hunt's resignation claiming Hunt and then- Majority Leader Mary Nolan, D-Portland, unfairly attacked Republicans on the campaign trail for favoring a sales tax.

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The Legislature Moves Toward Organization

“Planning for bipartisan coalition governance...” said House Speaker Dave Hunt the day after the November 2 election. The statement seems neither hopeful, nor hopeless. So how has the Legislature organized itself since the election?

The recounts are finished with no change to initial results. The Democrats still have a majority in the Senate, albeit this time by only one vote instead of three. Sen. Alan Bates, D-Ashland, is still a senator; Alan Olsen, R-Canby, will replace Senator Martha Schrader. Senator Peter Courtney, D-Salem, will remain the Senate President. Senator Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, will co-chair the Full Ways and Means Committee, handing over control of the Senate Democratic Caucus to Sen. Diane Rosenbaum of Portland. Senate Committee assignments already have been decided.

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First Thoughts on the Election Returns

The results board at the Senate Democrats' election night party gave an early hint at a shift of power.November 2 was full of surprises. Close races, surprise upsets and easy victories marked this election.

Although Republican Chris Dudley's gubernatorial lead stands at 15,000 votes, it won't last and John Kitzhaber will be elected governor.  Around 65,000 Multnomah County ballots remain to be counted.  Kitzhaber is winning Multnomah County by roughly 70% of the vote, with Dudley at 28%.   If this margin stays consistent, it will be a net pick up of around 26,000 votes for Kitzhaber.  A smattering of votes are coming in from other counties (including liberal Lane County), but Multnomah will decide this election.  The final tally should give Kitzhaber a win by 5,000 to 15,000 votes.

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Election Night Will Bring Changes

Secretary of State Kate Brown predicts 72 percent of registered voters will participate in Tuesday's election, the highest turnout in a non-presidential election in 20 years. Pundits are predicting some surprises in the state races, and no one knows what to predict in the gubernatorial race, which is polling as one of the closest races in Oregon's history.

Election night will bring surprises. Incumbents will lose their seats, and parties will prevail in districts where a majority of voters are registered the other way.

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