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Capital Chatter: Brown wants state to clean federal restrooms

Governor discusses impacts of ongoing partial federal shutdown on Oregon, legislative agenda.

Gov. Kate Brown wants to ensure Oregonians have their needs taken care of, so she's asking whether the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department can assist with restroom cleanup on federal lands during the partial government shutdown.

Brown said she was snowshoeing in the Santiam Pass and Mount Jefferson Wilderness areas and saw that the restrooms on federal lands were closed but people were using them anyway.

On Thursday, the governor held her first media availability of the year, by conference call, and she opened by talking about the federal shutdown. If it continues for long, Oregon will run out of federal money for low-income food programs.

An optimist by nature, Brown was upbeat about Oregon's economy despite the global quivers. She said Oregon's economic indicators are solid, warnings about a softening economy are no different from what was said a year ago, but Oregon must be prepared.

On other issues, Brown said:

• She favors reducing the blood alcohol limit for drivers from the current .08 percent to .05 percent, as Senate President Peter Courtney has proposed. Brown will work with Courtney to get the bill through the Legislature.

She noted that at the New Year's Eve party she attended, everyone who was drinking had a non-drinking designated driver.

• Her legislative priorities continue to focus on health care, housing, education, campaign finance reform and voting.

• She has not seen the specifics of House Speaker Tina Kotek's proposal to eliminate single-family zoning and thus would not comment on the idea.

• Oregon's delayed season for crabbing is evidence of climate change. The state has a responsibility to lead in reducing greenhouse gas emissions, even though Oregon's emissions are almost infinitesimal on the global scale.

• Congress would be smart to go nationwide with Oregon's system of automatic voter registration.

• She just finished reading the report and recommendations from the state Public Records Advisory Council, and she supports increased transparency. She did not go into specifics.

Where to park: Parking around the State Capitol was a mess during last month's Legislative Days, which does not bode well for the 2019 Legislature. Numerous parking meters were out of service, apparently for repairs; construction work and contractor vehicles took up a number of spots; and some construction workers parked their private vehicles around the Capitol.

Some parking congestion was due to family members and friends of the many music groups performing in the Capitol Rotunda during December. But there will be even more people in the Capitol as of this month, and the parking situation looks ugly.

Courtney had wanted the Legislature and other offices to move completely out of the Capitol for a couple of years while the building was rebuilt. But Kotek, then-House Majority Leader Val Hoyle and others balked at the cost and the interruption. Instead, the Legislature is doing smaller-scale improvements to the Capitol, with construction continuing during the 2019 session.

New leadership at BOLI: Brown will swear in Hoyle on Monday as commissioner of the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries. Among the first questions facing her: Whether to seek penalties against legislative leaders for allowing a hostile work environment at the Capitol, as BOLI alleges in an investigative report.

Outgoing Commissioner Brad Avakian pushed that issue. The commissioner position is nonpartisan but he, Hoyle, Courtney and Kotek are all Democrats.

Hoyle has chosen part of her management team and plans national searches for administrators of the Wage and Hour and the Civil Rights divisions.

Her other hires include people well-known around the Capitol: former gubernatorial aide Duke Shepard, deputy commissioner for BOLI; former legislative analyst Erin Seiler, senior policy adviser; former Eugene Register-Guard reporter Saul Hubbard, communications director; and Sabrina Balderama, Executive Services director.

Capitol gig: Want to hang out at the Oregon Capitol and get paid for it? Legislative Administration is recruiting for a Capitol Gift Store coordinator. The job is full-time during legislative sessions, when it pays $2,933 to $4,300 per month, and four-fifths time for the rest of the year.

The job posting says applicants must have a least one year of retail sales experience and two years' experience as a retail store manager, department manager or retail store buyer.

Legislative insights: I'm moderating a Portland City Club panel at noon Friday, Jan. 11. The topic is "2019 Legislative Preview: Should We Fear or Cheer the Supermajority?"

The panelists will be House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland; House Minority Leader Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass; and Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland. I do not know why Senate Minority Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr., R-Grants Pass, is not included, although the panel might have been scheduled before he was elected to that position.

Those wacky folks in Congress: As promised, Oregon Rep. Kurt Schrader was one of the 15 Democrats who voted against Nancy Pelosi for speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. He voted for Rep. Marcia L. Fudge, D-Ohio. Several of the dissenters voted present or for other House members, particularly Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairwoman Cheri Bustos of Illinois.

But some voted for such impossibilities as former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Illinois; or Stacey Abrams, last year's Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee.

Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Facebook.com/Hughesisms, YouTube.com/DickHughes or Twitter.com/DickHughes.