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Entries in Oregon House (5)


Large House Turnover Looms for 2015 Session

The 2015 Oregon House will be a substantially different from the one that convened just a year ago. Nearly a quarter of House members who were sworn in during the 2013 session have announced their intention not to seek re-election or are pursuing other electoral opportunities (some in the Oregon Senate).

In a state where relationships are key to legislative victories, the turnover in the House may break Oregon’s recent streak in passing major reforms.

The 14 House members not seeking re-election include nine Republicans and five Democrats. Together, they have served a whopping 117 years as elected members of the Oregon House through 103 regular sessions (and, for some, countless special sessions).

Rep. Bob Jenson (R-Pendleton), the longest serving member of the Oregon House, is among those who will retire this year after serving 18 years as a state representative.

Legislative service is a tough business — long hours, low pay, months away from families and friends, all combined with an election cycle that is increasingly hostile. Yet, the service for many is rewarding, finding ways to pass legislation that is important to their districts, working collaboratively balance budgets and make important reforms.

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Eaton Scores Before Leaders Meet

Olympic champion Ashton Eaton from LaPine was honored today in the Oregon House as the governor and legislative leaders prepared to resume budget talks at Mahonia Hall.As Governor Kitzhaber and legislative leaders prepared to resume their Mahonia Hall budget talks this afternoon, Oregon House members celebrated Ashton Eaton, the popular and photogenic LaPine Olympian who holds world records in the decathlon and heptathlon. 

After passing House Concurrent Resolution 31, lawmakers posed for pictures with Eaton, the 2012 decathlon gold medalist in London.

Eaton was a five-time NCAA champion while competing for the University of Oregon. He now competes for the Oregon Track Club Elite, also based in Eugene.

He peaked at the right time for the 2012 Olympics, winning his first international medal in 2011 at the World Championships, then setting the world record in the decathlon in the U.S. Olympic trials in Eugene. Eaton was only the second Olympic decathlete to exceed 9,000 points.

HCR 31 gave Eaton the title of "world's greatest athlete," which in this case may not be an exaggeration. The decathlon includes 10 disparate track and field events. A decathlete runs 100, 400 and 1,500 meter races, plus the 110-meter hurdles. Field events include the long jump, high jump, pole vault, shot put, discus and javelin.

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A Reflection on Oregon Co-Governance

As we approach the November 2012 election, it is timely to reflect on how well co-governance has worked in the Oregon House the last two years as Democrats and Republicans each held 30 seats.

Any reasonable assessment of co-governance would indicate that it has been, in the main, a success.

Republicans and Democrats managed to find a way to work together, with co-speakers of the House, co-chairs of every legislative committee, co-vice-chairs of every committee and "co" everything else.

Truly, it has been an experience in which legislators, regardless of party label, found a way to identify the middle on a host of pressing public policy problems. At a time when there appears to be almost nothing but acrimony, recrimination and name-calling in the presidential and congressional campaigns, it has been refreshing to watch Oregon’s elected officials work together to express the very definition of politics — the art of compromise.

Here are a few examples where legislators found common ground:

       *  Deciding not to propose any increased taxes while Oregonians try to recover from a stubborn recession — that could have driven another wedge between businesses and unions.

       *  Agreeing across party lines to balance the state budget, with a larger-than-normal ending balance.

       *  Moving ahead on health care reform that, at least in theory, proposes to provide health care to more Oregonians while slowing the growth in the cost of care.

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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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It Only Takes One

With the 2012 election now 13 months away, Oregon House leaders are aggressively recruiting candidates to run against incumbents or fill open seats. The stakes are high for leaders of the Oregon House. A swing of one seat for either party will ensure control of the chamber in 2013 when the legislature meets for its next full session.

House Co-Speakers Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay, and Bruce Hanna, R-Roseburg, have displayed a great deal of bipartisanship as they shared control of a 30-30 House. But the real prize is outright control where one party sets the policy agenda, control committees and negotiates with the Senate and Governor.

That's what made the action last week to strip Rep. Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, of his co-chairmanship of House Business and Labor, so engrossing. If Schaufler, who is accused of groping a woman at the recent Oregon AFL-CIO convention, were to resign or not seek re-election over the incident, his House seat could become an immediate target of opportunity in the battle for control, even with a 19 percent Democratic registration edge. As it is, both Democratic and Republican leaders are cautiously optimistic of gaining control in 2013.

Democrats believe redistricting approved in the 2011 session gives them a leg-up in districts that Republicans grabbed from them in the 2010 "GOP landslide" election. For example, the Clackamas County seat held by Rep. Patrick Sheehan went from a 2.8 percent Democratic registration edge to 7.2 percent and the Bend seat held by Rep. Jason Conger went from 2.5 percent to 5.6 percent.

They also are confident they can grab back the seat held by Hillsboro freshman Rep. Katie Eyre Brewer. However, the Democratic nominee must survive a high-profile primary fight. Katie Riley, who lost to Eyre Brewer in 2010 and is the wife of former Rep. Chuck Riley, wants a rematch. However, political operative Ben Unger has decided to run for the seat. His family runs Unger Farms, a prominent local business.

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