SALEM — Even a dusting of snow this week isn’t enough to cool off the pace of the Legislature as it hurtles toward the finish line of the 2018 session.
Though the “short session” is technically 35 days, the even-year sessions normally run a few days short of the constitutional limit. The official final day is Sunday, March 11, but legislative leaders say they want to skip town by the end of Friday, March 9. That’s two weeks from this coming Friday.
A few big bills appear to have a good chance of getting over the finish line. The “boyfriend loophole” gun control law will get a vote in the Senate, according to Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem. Two carbon cap bills are on the fast track in both chambers but could face bumps that could still throw them off the rails.
Still to be seen is what happens with all of the smaller bills in the slip-stream of the big items. Proponents of the Deschutes River bridge ban bill and the $39 million in supplemental funding for Oregon State University-Cascades are keeping an eye on the clock.
Just don’t blink or you’ll miss the end of the Salem saga. Meanwhile, here’s a roundup of political and government news from in and around the capital:
Bend-La Pine school board member Cheri Helt, a Republican, has quickly gained ground in the fundraising competition with Bend City Councilor Nathan Boddie, a Democrat, in their race for the 54th House District. That’s the seat Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, is giving up to run for governor. Boddie officially announced he was running in October and has raised just over $23,000. Helt opened her campaign committee at the end of January and now has over $20,000.
Helping Helt get close to parity were a few big donors: The Rental Housing Key PAC, a rental owners political group, gave $5,000. Also giving $5,000 was the PAC of Rep. Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte, who helped recruit Helt for the race. The PAC of Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, was among three donors giving $2,500 each. The others were the Oregon Restaurant & Lodging Association PAC and Howard Koff, a Bend-based financial planner. As reported earlier, the largest contributions for Boddie have come from relatives and the Bend Good Government PAC. Roger Worthington, owner of Worthy Brewing, contributed $2,000 in late December.
Though Helt has publicly announced she is running and has been raising money through a campaign committee registered with the state, as of Monday she had not filed the official paperwork with the Secretary of State to run for office, more than a month after she announced she would seek the House seat. Candidates have until March 6 to file for office.
Safeguards for the disabled
One of the earliest bills to break from the pack this session is Senate Bill 1526, which prohibits courts and the state from removing a child from a parent’s care based solely on the parents’ disability, if the court does not find any additional conduct or conditions that are seriously detrimental to the children. The bipartisan bill was carried on the Senate floor by Knopp. It now goes to the House for consideration.
“I believe I was elected to provide equality of opportunity and equal justice for all,” Knopp said. “This bill is an important step towards ensuring parents of all abilities have equal justice.” The legislation prevents an emotional illness, mental illness, intellectual or developmental disability, or other disability from being the sole reason to place a child under the state’s jurisdiction.
Kumbaya on housing
A rare bipartisan effort on affordable housing was unanimously approved Monday by the House. House Joint Resolution 201, would allow local jurisdictions to ask voters to approve bonds to build affordable housing. Current law prohibits jurisdictions from working directly with private and nonprofit developers and from using common affordable housing financing tools to keep costs under control. The resolution next goes to the Senate, where bipartisan support is expected. If approved there, it would go to voters as a constitutional amendment on the November ballot.
Capitol Wi-Fi woes
State staffers, lawmakers and journalists were perplexed last week when the Capitol’s Wi-Fi system ground to near-halt. Turns out the culprit was the legions of lobbyists in the building who, between committee meetings, were sucking up bandwidth by using streaming websites for everything from “Game of Thrones” to gambling, Willamette Week reported. The paper reported that Dale Penn Jr., the chairman of the Capitol Club’s technology committee, sent out a missive when some members of the lobbyist-centric club wondered why they were getting a password prompt on the usually open Capitol Wi-Fi system. “Legislative Admin’s IT department is now blocking certain websites in the Capitol area on the free public wifi — these include Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, dating sites, gambling sites and gaming sites,” the memo said. Since it put the speed bump on access, the Capitol IT has seen 322,000 attempts to access streaming video sites in just three days. Willamette Week reported Penn’s memo said video streaming of nonbusiness-related content was consuming 40 percent of the available bandwidth. The system is used by legislative staff, visitors, state agency personnel and journalists. The restrictions will be lifted March 11.
An even dozen
Ed Jones, a Redmond businessman, has become the 12th candidate for governor. Jones joins Candace Neville as Democrats running against their party’s standard-bearer, Gov. Kate Brown. There are nine Republicans running. The field will be culled in the May 15 primaries. A quarter of the candidates are from Deschutes County: Jones, Buehler and Bend businessman Sam Carpenter, a Republican.
— Reporter: 541-525-5280, email@example.com