Capital Chatter: Little interest for special session
Lawmakers are unenthusiastic about Gov. Kate Brown's demand for a May 21 special legislative session.
That was obvious earlier this month in Senate President Peter Courtney's brief response to Brown's announcement that she would sign a controversial income tax bill but also convene legislators to make one fix. Said Courtney: "I want to thank the governor for signing the bill. I know it was not easy."
He said nothing about the impending special session.
Article V, Section 12 of the Oregon Constitution grants this power to the governor: "He may on extraordinary occasions convene the Legislative Assembly by proclamation, and shall state to both houses when assembled, the purpose for which they shall have been convened."
Note that the governor — in this case, "she" — shall state the purpose. But there is no constitutional limit on the session's content or length.
Brown wants a one-day session to pass her proposed tax break for roughly 9,000 sole proprietorships. Yet once the session begins, legislators can bring up whatever they want, talk as long as they want and argue as much as they want.
So by its nature, a well-organized special session goes against the spirit of public scrutiny. Legislators are courted, deals are made and votes are counted ahead of time. Otherwise, a special session could drag on for days, or blow up.
Of course, that is not unlike a regular legislative session, but those decisions play out over weeks and months.
Courtney addressed the challenges in his statement this week: "The Governor has called us in. The Senate will convene to consider her proposal. We will organize May 21 and run the session simultaneously with Legislative Days.
"Special sessions present unique challenges. They require focus. They require discipline. The Speaker and I plan to appoint a joint committee which will begin hearing the bill before the session to allow for as much public input as possible."
Republicans were unimpressed with Brown's plan, cast it as "political theater" but indicated they'd go along.
House Republican Leader Mike McLane released this statement: "The political theater session now has a date. Let's hope Governor Brown and legislative Democrats will limit the scope of the session to the stated purpose instead of allowing for the introduction of unrelated policy bills. In the end, the tone and tenor of the session will be defined by whether Democrats are able to stick to their word."
Timing might be everything: Oregonians may question whether this special session fits the constitutional spirit of "extraordinary occasion."
But if the Legislature is to meet, May 21 seems a logical day. Brown noted that lawmakers would be at the Oregon Capitol that week for previously scheduled committee meetings, "so it will work for most legislators' schedules and will keep additional costs to the state to an absolute minimum."
I look forward to learning the answer to this equation: Cost of special legislative session + possible tax reductions for 9,000 sole proprietorships = X amount of political goodwill
• Election bipartisanship: Oregon Supreme Court Justice Meagan Flynn, who is up for election in the May 15 statewide primary election, has the joint endorsement of Democratic House Speaker Tina Kotek and House Republican Leader McLane.
• Location, location, location: The Oregon Department of Transportation reminds candidates and their supporters: "Political signs may not be posted on any Oregon state highway right of way, and there are restrictions for signs placed on private property visible from state highways."
• Challenges for Brown, Buehler: Willamette Week endorsed Brown in the Democratic primary and state Rep. Knute Buehler in the Republican gubernatorial primary. But the newspaper noted their weaknesses as well:
About Brown: "The rap on Brown is that this affable politician is too cautious, too unwilling to challenge the preconceived notions of her base, and simply not bold enough for the challenges that we face."
About Buehler: "He's struggled to solidify Republicans, both because he lacks the warmth and common touch of a natural politician, and because his strategy is based on capturing the big middle of Oregon politics in which nonaffiliated voters outnumber Republicans."
Ten Republicans, three Democrats and three Independents are seeking their party nominations for governor. Few are well-known. One of the Republicans, frequent candidate Bruce Cuff, this week switched his support to Greg Wooldridge.
• O, Portland: Willamette Week said this of Congressman Earl Blumenauer's being challenged in the Democratic primary: "Only in Portland could Washington, D.C.'s leading advocate for transit, bicycles and weed draw a challenger from the left."
• O, acronyms: Oregon Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, along with other Democrats, have introduced legislation to crack down on robocalls. They called it the ROBOCOP Act.
Catchy. But to come up with that acronym, the full title is "Repeated Objectionable Bothering of Consumers on Phones."
• Rewriting legislative history: A press release highlighting Gov. Brown's recent visit to Bend claimed she introduced this year's legislation that included $39 million for construction at Oregon State University-Cascades.
Not so. Brown was instrumental in getting the money included, but the legislation – Senate Bill 5702 – was a routine bill that the Legislature introduces each session for state bonding. The details are added once legislative leaders decide which projects to finance.
• Yeas and nays: Thanks for your responses to my column last week about a Second Amendment rally in Salem and tactical-style firearms.
Most comments were positive. I appreciate all of them, pro or con. Two samples:
From Hermiston: "Bravo for a well-written and truly thoughtful piece!"
From Woodburn: "… Does empathy and compassion matter to you? It is like you are defending your kid's right to use a certain toy just because the kid will fuss and cry if you take it away. … There are plenty of other guns to kill whatever you like, but we do not need guns that were made to kill people. …"
Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Hughesisms.com/Facebook, YouTube.com/c/DickHughes or @DickHughes on Twitter.