SALEM — Nothing says “romance” quite like a full slate of legislative committee meetings. Wednesday may be Valentine’s Day, but 19 legislative committee meetings are scheduled with start times stretching from 8 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. (candlelight, ladies and gentlemen?). When up against a deadline, the Legislature has worked weekends and, just last year, July Fourth, to catch up on its backlog of bills. A few bite-size morsels from a week at the Capitol:
Ayes and nays on health care
Voters could be asked to decide if the right to health care should be enshrined in the state constitution. House Joint Resolution 203 passed Tuesday on a party-line vote, with 35 Democrats voting yes and 25 Republicans voting no.
The resolution now goes to the Senate. If approved there, it would ask the voters in November whether an addition should be made to the state constitution saying the state, “must ensure that every resident of Oregon has access to cost-effective, medically appropriate and affordable health care.”
Democrats touted the resolution as an important “aspirational” statement to counterbalance the Trump administration’s moves to weaken or eliminate the Affordable Care Act. “If I didn’t have insurance, I wouldn’t be here — I would be dead,” said Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, a cancer survivor.
Republicans argued it was an election-year stunt with no mechanism for ensuring the right to health care, leaving the state open to litigation and unknown expenses. “What’s been said today is there is no plan — we have no idea how much it will cost,” said House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte.
Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, and Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver, voted no.
No ‘TGIF’ this week
The first key “witching hour” for the Legislature is Thursday, when any bill that has not been moved from the committee to the floor of the chamber where it was introduced by the end of the day is dead.
The exception: Bills in the Ways & Means or Rules committees.
The deadline is meant to cull the estimated 256 bills that were introduced this session.
The next day will be a busy one, too. On Friday, the new state revenue forecast is due, with a possible update on what some lawmakers believe will be a $200 million or more revenue shortfall due to the federal tax cuts.
Also on Friday, a meeting of the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, which is considering sanctions against former Gov. John Kitzhaber.
Brown’s big bucks
Gov. Kate Brown’s campaign kitty nearly doubled for the year with the recent filing of an updated list of contributions. Brown’s latest total, through Feb. 8, shows she has raised just over $387,000 since Jan. 1. She has just over $3 million in the bank.
Buehler, her chief fundraising rival on the Republican side, is barred from taking contributions while the Legislature is in session. His campaign for governor remains at the Feb. 4 total of just over $516,000 raised this year, and just over $1.9 million in the bank.
Brown usually waits the legally allowed 30 days between receiving and reporting contributions. Buehler has filed contributions as they have come in.
Word of the week: LULU
It stands for “Locally Unwanted Land Use.” Think of NIMBY (“Not In My Back Yard”) writ extra large, with governments tackling land use issues whose outcome may not be welcomed by residents of an area. The term was used on Tuesday during a hearing about a proposed land-use bill before the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee.
Greg Wooldridge, the former commander of the Navy’s elite Blue Angels squadron who recently announced he will enter the GOP primary for governor, has opened a political committee that will allow him to raise and spend funds.
Wooldridge, now a motivational speaker, has also started a website, wooldridgefororegon.com, that includes a campaign commercial currently only shown online.
Wooldridge joins Sam Carpenter, of Bend, and seven other Republicans in challenging Buehler in the May 15 primary.
The GOP officially reached nine gubernatorial candidates with the addition of David Stauffer, who ran as a Democrat for governor in 2016 and received 2.8 percent of the primary vote. Stauffer, now a Republican, created a campaign finance committee last year, but did not formally file his candidacy with the Secretary of State until Feb. 8.
Stauffer garnered widespread attention for his 2016 proposal to relieve traffic congestion by building a 30-story parking garage in Vancouver, Washington, where commuters would take a waterslide across the Columbia River to downtown Portland.
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