Lawmakers cleared out of the Capitol this week, though it’s more of an intermission between releasing “legislative concepts” last week and the Feb. 5 start of the 2018 legislative session. In between is the special election on Tuesday. Not much of a political “off-season.” When they do arrive back in Planet Salem, the inhabitants of the Legislature will hear a State of the State speech by Gov. Kate Brown, after which there will be a huge scrum to be first to change that state with new laws. A few items from the ballot box to the civic purse:

Fire costs

The tab for fighting Oregon’s wildfires in 2017 hit $454 million, the most in the 21st century, according to the Northwest Interagency Coordination Center, which coordinates federal, state and local firefighting in the region.

While there were more than 2,000 wildfires in Oregon, most were stopped before they burned just a few acres. But massive fires, such as Chetco Bar in the southwest corner of the state and the Eagle Creek Fire in the Columbia River Gorge area, accounted for 665,000 acres that burned. That’s far less than the more than 1 million acres that burned in 2012, but the 2017 fires were in more densely populated areas requiring more resources. On average, just under 150,000 acres burn each year in Oregon.

Plan B on Measure 101

Two leading opponents of Measure 101, the health provider tax, say they will introduce a bill to revise funding for Medicaid during the 2018 session of the Legislature.

Rep. Julie Parrish, R-West Linn, and Rep. Cedric Hayden, R-Fall Creek, are two of the leaders of the “No on Measure 101” campaign. Their new legislation, House Bill 4146, would be introduced when the Legislature convenes Feb. 5 — after the vote Tuesday.

Asked if submitting legislation dealing with alternative means of Medicaid funding meant they felt the ballot measure would pass, Parrish said, “Well … it’s anyone’s game when they’re pumping millions into trying to convince voters taxing their own health care is the way to go.”

Democrats have a 35-25 majority in the House, making the Parrish-Hayden bill an uphill battle.

Who’s your daddy?

The resurrection of legislation to ban a pedestrian bridge over the Deschutes River on the southern border of the Bend city limits remains something of a mystery.

The bill came out of the House Agriculture and Natural Resources Committee. Because it was introduced as a committee bill, individual sponsors are not listed. The chairman of the committee, Rep. Brian Clem, D-East Salem, did not attend the committee meeting last week where the bill was approved as one of three bills to be submitted by the committee.

A similar bridge ban was stalled in the Senate when the 2017 session ended. That bill was sponsored by Rep. Gene Whisnant, R-Sunriver. Contacted this week, Whisnant said he was not involved in the 2018 bill. Ditto, Rep. Knute Buehler, R-Bend, who supported the bill last year, but says he has no role this year.

Buehler’s immigrant roots

Buehler was quick to criticize President Trump’s alleged statement about immigrants from “s---hole” countries.

“​The ​United States of America​ is a nation of diverse immigrants who, like my grandparents, fled poverty and discrimination for liberty and opportunity,” he said. “The president’s words are not consistent with the values of our great nation.​” ​

In explaining his statement, Buehler said it came in part from knowing his paternal grandfather had been an immigrant who was made to feel unwelcome in his adopted country. Carl Buehler arrived from Germany soon after World War I when anti-German feelings were running high. He moved to Los Angeles where he had friends and worked as a butcher in a slaughterhouse.

Saving enough money, he sent for his wife, Marie, and they moved to Oregon. They settled in Drain, in northern Douglas County, opening a butcher shop and grocery store.

While some residents were welcoming, others taunted and threatened the family because of where they came from and how they spoke. While there can be real differences of opinion on immigration, there is no room for debasing language or actions, Knute Buehler said. “We should treat all people with respect and dignity.”

Highway salutes

Monday’s ceremony on U.S. Highway 20 updating a sign as part of the Oregon Medal of Honor Highway is just the latest effort to honor the 6,022 Oregonians killed and 15,000 wounded in combat since 1917. Other highways saluting veterans: U.S. Highway 395 (WWI), U.S. Highway 97 (WWII), Interstate 5 (Korea), Interstate 84 (Vietnam) and U.S. Highway 101 (Persian Gulf, Afghanistan, Iraq).

The effort has been led by the Bend Heroes Foundation (,) which is seeking to erect markers in 12 “Medal of Honor Cities”: Agness, Bend, Corvallis, Eugene, Hood River, Jordan Valley, Medford, Oakridge, Portland, Richland, Salem and The Dalles. Each has a Medal of Honor recipient closely connected with the city.

The group is also active in the effort to make U.S. Highway 20 a coast-to-coast Medal of Honor Highway. From Newport to Boston, the route passes through 12 states that are home to 57 percent of the Medal of Honor recipients since the medal was created during the Civil War in 1862, according to Bend Heroes Foundation.

Electorate emoticons

How many Facebook friends will Measure 101 have Tuesday? It won’t determine the outcome of the referendum, but it will indicate the success or failure of Secretary of State Dennis Richardson’s experiment to put election results on a live feed on his “official” Facebook page while updating on the state elections page at its usual periodic pace.

The first posts are expected around 8 p.m. Just make sure you have Dennis Richardson, the Oregon Secretary of State. Not Dennis Richardson who works for Wolfgang Puck. Or the forest products guy in Roseburg. Or the welder, refinery worker, or self-defense teacher. Or the volunteer at the LDS Employment Center. Wait, that last one is Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. Just a different Facebook page.

In case you get lost, here’s the place:

— Reporter: 541-525-5280,