The capitols in Salem and Washington, D.C., are both decked out in holiday bunting, but inside, the normally quiet holiday period has been anything but this year in both locations. A look at some of the political news of the past week:
Walden town hall in Bend now planned for January
With the current “lame duck” Congress still trying to hammer out a plan to avoid a federal government shutdown, the window for Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River, to hold a promised town hall in Bend during 2018 has evaporated. But Justin Discigil, Walden’s spokesman, said the town hall will happen next month.
“Representative Walden has a town hall scheduled in Bend in early January,” Discigil said. “We will be announcing the location, date and time soon.”
Walden promised a 2018 town hall in Bend following a raucous April 2017 town hall in the city. Walden won re-election to an 11th term in Congress on Nov. 6, but narrowly lost Deschutes County to Democrat Jamie McLeod-Skinner.
Richardson will stay on Land Board, speaks out on cancer
Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who is battling brain cancer, attended a State Land Board meeting Tuesday by speakerphone, a day after he reversed his decision to temporarily leave the panel. In October, Richardson requested a subordinate be allowed to carry on his duties on the three-member board because of health issues. But he withdrew the request after receiving an opinion by the state’s Department of Justice that the substitution would be improper. Richardson’s voice was strong but halting as he participated in the meeting Tuesday with board members Gov. Kate Brown and Treasurer Tobias Read, who were physically present.
Richardson released" class="auto" target="_blank">https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTdY7f5KhGQ&feature=youtu.be">released a video last week updating the public on his brain cancer. In a sometimes halting statement, Richardson said the main impact has been on his speech.
“Some days my speech feels unaffected, and other days I feel it’s difficult to articulate the words even though I’m still thinking clearly,” Richardson said. “It’s frustrating for me when my speech doesn’t keep up with my mind, but I’m sure glad that it isn’t the other way around.”
Citing confidential sources, the Oregon Capital Bureau reported last month that Richardson had told top state officials he has glioblastoma, a particularly virulent form of cancer that killed U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz. Richardson’s office denied he had made such statements, but declined to address the type of cancer, treatment or prognosis for recovery. The secretary of state is first in the line of succession if the governor leaves office. The secretary of state’s office is up for re-election in 2020.
Top Democrat seeks to ban single-family house zoning
Among the avalanche of “legislative concepts” introduced during last week’s legislative “committee days” in Salem is a proposal to bar exclusively single-family housing zoning in any Oregon city of more than 10,000 people. That would cover more than 40 cities, including Bend and Redmond. It wouldn’t ban single-family homes, just require that cities at a minimum allow multiple-family dwellings in all areas. The idea has a powerful champion — it’s being proposed by House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland as a sweeping way to address the state’s lack of affordable housing.
“The state’s housing crisis requires a combination of bolder strategies,” says Kotek in a statement.
Minneapolis recently became the first major city to introduce a similar ban. Oregon would be the first state if a similar law were enacted. Whether Kotek has the political muscle to get the idea through the Legislature or if it is the opening gambit in a fight over affordable housing legislation won’t be known until after the Legislature convenes Jan. 22.
Merkley drops attempt to change law
U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., has reportedly dropped his attempt to change state law so he could run simultaneously for president and re-election to his U.S. Senate seat in 2020. According to Oregon Public Broadcasting, some top Democrats in the state Senate opposed changing the law, which bars anyone from running simultaneously for two “lucrative” — meaning paying — government positions. New Jersey’s Democratic-dominated legislature voted in November to change a similar law for U.S. Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., who is also considering a bid for the White House. Willamette Week reported in mid-November that Merkley was sounding out political leaders in Salem about a change in the law. But faced with a lack of unanimity among Democratic leaders, Merkley said earlier this month that the law should stay as is, and he tweeted later that he was “completely fine with that.” Merkley, the state’s junior senator, has been exploring a run for president with visits to New Hampshire and other high-profile political spots around the country. Merkley could still run in some of the 13 primaries and caucuses that will occur in 2020 before Oregon’s March 10, 2020, filing deadline for the state’s May 19 primary.
“As you know, after the first couple of states, you knock out 90 percent of the candidates,” Merkley told reporters Dec. 3 in Portland. “So that would give me a chance to decide on whether to seek re-election.”
Hayes penalties still in limbo
The Oregon Ethics Commission held its final meeting of 2018 on Friday and, once again, the final decision on penalties against former Oregon “First Lady” Cylvia Hayes was not on the agenda. Last January, the commission said Hayes violated state ethics laws 22 times. Hayes faced a total of $110,000 in possible fines. Hayes, the fiancee of former Gov. John Kitzhaber, was found to have used her position for influence peddling. Kitzhaber early last year negotiated a $20,000 fine for his own violations. Over the summer, Hayes said she was filing for bankruptcy due to a lien against her Bend home placed by The Oregonian newspaper to satisfy a court judgment. The commission and Hayes have continued to negotiate on the fines, which now looks to spill over into 2019.
— Reporter: 541-640-2750, email@example.com
Information from The Associated Press is included in this report.