SALEM — Now that Halloween is over, we’re moving onto the next holiday: Christmas! What? Thanks-what? Oh, Thanksgiving. Yeah, well, haven’t you been to your local stores or shopping websites lately? Turkey Day is just a gluttonous speed bump on the way to “Ho-Ho-Ho” time. Get out your naughty and nice lists and start shopping.

Looking for a unique present for the political junkie in your life? Check out the trio of special socks on sale at The Capitol Store. Pairs of socks with the pattern of the carpet in the House, Senate and governor’s office sell for $14 each. The store is usually the only place to get the socks, but in the holiday spirit, the shop will work with customers who would like the socks mailed. Call 503-986-1391. Our suggestion that the shop sell socks with the pattern of the Capitol Press Room went nowhere — it’s difficult to replicate 20 years of muddy shoes and coffee spill stains.

Meanwhile, politics never takes a holiday. Here’s the latest from in and around the Oregon Empire.

Kruse news

State Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, has a new headache to deal with.

Kruse has already been stripped of all committee assignments amid allegations he improperly touched women, including two female lawmakers — a charge he denies. And senate leaders ordered that the door to his office be removed for continuing to smoke after warnings the Capitol is a no-smoking zone — a charge he admits.

Now, according to The Oregonian and Willamette Week newspapers, Kruse says he was the target of a possible blackmail scam in which he feared a woman would release a video that he thought could be construed as showing him naked and masturbating.

Kruse says he did take off his shirt, but nothing else, for a woman he met on a forum. Concerned he might be blackmailed, he shut down his account on the site where they met and contacted Oregon State Police. No charges are pending, the newspapers say. Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, says any future sanctions are up to the full Senate or voters.

Kruse was elected to the House in 1996 and moved over to the Senate in 2004. He was re-elected to a new four-year term last November.

Taking a break from a break

The Legislature hung it up for the year back in July, when it adjourned the 2017 session. The 2018 session doesn’t start until February (and then only goes for 35 days). But for the second time since the gavels fell, lawmakers will return to the Capitol next week for “Comm Days,” short for committee days. Most of the “hearings” will be for show — lawmakers can’t make laws outside of session. But meetings on a carbon “cap-and-invest” plan are a harbinger of issues the Legislature is likely to tackle in February.

Golden parachutes

There’s actually some real work getting done during the four days of meetings next week. The Senate Rules Committee will consider Gov. Kate Brown’s nomination of a pair of veteran powerful lawmakers, Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, and Senate Ways & Means Chairman Richard Devlin, D-Tualatin, to the multi-state Northwest Power & Conservation Council. The bipartisan two-fer is expected to win easy approval. Ferrioli and Devlin will have to step down from their powerful positions to take their new jobs. Why would they do that? Considering a lawmaker makes $24,000 per year, while members of the council get $120,000 — which also helps boost state retirement pension benefits based on highest annual salary — it’s a no-brainer.

Lose ’em and choose ‘em

The departure of Ferrioli and Rep. John Huffman, R-The Dalles, makes for a busy time for some Deschutes and Jefferson County elected officials.

Oregon is one of seven states where county commissioners choose who gets to replace a legislator who steps down during their term. Under state law, when lawmakers resign during their term, the commissioners of the counties in the district have 30 days to pick a replacement from three to five candidates put forward by the party which last held the seat. Huffman just resigned to become the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Rural Development Director for Oregon. County commissioners in Deschutes, Jefferson, Wasco and Wheeler counties will vote on a replacement. Ferrioli’s job will be up for grabs by early next year.

Deschutes and Jefferson are among 11 counties that will chose Ferrioli’s replacement (his district is Oregon’s largest, covering 36,000 square miles). Replacements are expected to be in place before the 2018 session of the legislature. Those named to the jobs will have little time to rest — both seats will be contested in the 2018 election.

No blue from these two

Oregon’s two Democratic U.S. senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, say they will block any judicial nominee from Oregon until the Trump administration agrees to what they say is a traditional bipartisan state vetting committee used for nominees under previous Democratic and Republican administrations. Their weapon: a blue slip of paper.

Major presidential appointments require the Senate to “advise and consent.” Since 1917, senators from the home state of a judicial appointee have been given a “blue slip” to write if they approve or oppose the nominee. But the ultimate use is to withhold slips, called “blue-slipping” a nominee.

Under current Senate tradition, the nomination cannot go forward. Some Republicans, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky, want a looser interpretation of the rule which would allow nominees to move forward. Other GOP senators are loathe to change the rule, since they might want to blue slip a nominee of the next Democratic president. Stay tuned.

Quotable

“It ought not to be a controversial thing. Republicans believe in the Second Amendment.”

— Multnomah County GOP chair James Buchal, who told the Oregonian Oct. 31 that he was “offended” Democrats have called for cancellation of a planned Dec. 4 raffle of an M&P-15 semi-automatic rifle because of recent mass shootings.

— Reporter: 541-525-5280 or gwarner@bendbulletin.com

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