SALEM — State Rep. Cheri Helt, R-Bend, has been chosen by Secretary of State Bev Clarno to replace a controversial activist as the office’s representative on the state Board of Education.
Helt’s new role was one of the highlights of the past week in the Capitol. With 75 days to go before the constitutionally required June 30 adjournment of the 2019 Legislature, lawmakers are jockeying to get their bills a place on the crowded calendar.
Some of the news this week in and around the Capitol:
Helt designated for state education slot
Clarno on Monday tapped Helt as her designated representative on the state Board of Education. Before her election to the state House last year, Helt served on the Bend-La Pine School Board.
“With Cheri’s incredible breadth of professional knowledge and previous school board experience in Central Oregon, I have no doubt she will represent this office and all of Oregon’s children well,” Clarno said.
Helt said she appreciated Clarno putting “such great trust” in her. “I can’t wait to serve the students and teachers of Oregon.”
The position is ex officio, meaning Helt can take part in deliberations but has no vote. The state panel oversees the Department of Education and sets state education policy but does not control local school districts or the state budget for education.
Helt replaces Kim Sordyl, an outspoken critic of Portland schools who was appointed by then-Secretary of State Dennis Richardson, who died in office from brain cancer Feb. 26. Clarno was selected by Gov. Kate Brown as Richardson’s replacement and was sworn into office April 1. Clarno asked for and received Sordyl’s resignation Thursday.
In her resignation letter, Sordyl took a swipe at Clarno for earlier dismissing Deputy Secretary of State Leslie Cummings, chief of staff Deb Royal and legislative director Steve Elzinga just one day after Clarno took office. “Your actions are not only disappointing, but they demonstrate your own lack of understanding of the value that his team brought us,” Sordyl wrote.
More staff shuffles
The appointment of Helt wasn’t the only change in the Secretary of State’s Office. Clarno continues to build her team even as she has severed ties with more holdovers hired or appointed by her predecessor. Clarno, a Republican from Redmond, last week hired Andrea Chiapella as legislative director and Tayleranne Gillespie as communications director. Both move over from jobs at the Senate Republican caucus. Larry Morgan, the office’s citizen engagement and inclusion coordinator, was told his contract will not be renewed when it ends in June.
Two other departures were voluntary. Digital strategist Jon Heynen, who has also been acting press secretary since Clarno took office, said he would be leaving to become communications manager for the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systems, based in Lake Oswego. Nike executive Julia Brim-Edwards said Friday she was stepping down from her volunteer position helping with Clarno’s transition into office. Brim-Edwards, who is also a member of the board of Portland Public Schools, was a legislative aide to Clarno in the 1990s.
Popular-vote bill proves popular
After several failed attempts over more than a decade, a bill to have Oregon join the National Popular Vote Compact passed the Senate last week on a 17-12 vote. Sen. Tim Knopp, R-Bend, was among those opposing the bill. Senate Bill 870 now goes to the House, where it is expected to pass.
The compact movement grew out of unhappiness in some political camps with the 2000 and 2016 elections, in which Republicans George W. Bush and Donald Trump lost the popular vote but won the Electoral College and became president. Critics of the Electoral College say it gives smaller states undue influence over elections. Each states gets votes equal to their total number of House and Senate seats. Oregon has five House members and two U.S. senators, amounting to seven Electoral College votes. Seats in the U.S. House of Representatives are based on population, while each state gets the same two votes for their senators, regardless of size.
Under the compact, states promise to dole out their electoral votes proportionate to the national popular vote. Advocates would need to garner states accounting for 270 electoral votes — enough to win the presidency. So far, 13 states and Washington, D.C., have joined, accounting for 181 votes. California and Washington state are already part of the compact. Previous attempts to have Oregon join were stalled in the Senate when Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, declined to bring legislation up for a floor vote. As part of a compromise within the Democratic caucus this year, Courtney promised to allow a vote. On the roll call, Courtney voted no.
Redmond bill nearly law
The office of Gov. Kate Brown said she would sign House Bill 2336 sometime this week. The bill, which passed both chambers of the Legislature with a unanimous vote, would retroactively qualify Redmond for an affordable housing pilot program. A similar project in Bend has already been given a green light.
Getting their fill of roadkill
The state has issued more than 200 permits that allow people to salvage deer and elk killed along the state’s highways and use it as food, according to the Salem Statesman-Journal. Since the law went into effect at the beginning of the year, the bulk of the permits have been near small and medium-sized towns that have a supply of both wildlife and motorists. La Grande and Klamath Falls applied for the most permits, according to state reports.
The Washington Post reported earlier this year that 20 states allow such for salvaging roadkill. After Washington state approved its law, there were 1,600 permits issued in 2016. The law varies by state — in Georgia, bears can be salvaged for food. In Oregon, those who pick up a dead deer or elk have to apply online for a free permit within 24 hours. They must also turn over the dead animal’s head and antlers to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife within five business days.
— Reporter: 541-640-2750, gwarner@bendbulletin