Special Session Open Discussion

Here's an open discussion for those who are participating in the special session, or are observing it. Use the comments to tell us what's happening, rumors that are spreading, and amusing stories you want to share.

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    BTW, you can watch the Senate (but not the House, don't know why) right now on Comcast Channel 29 in Portland. Other cities are listed on the OPAN website. There's also a live videostream online.

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    Oh hey, after a half hour of nothing at the Senate, OPAN has switched to the House. Roll call time.

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    Oh my god. Jeff Kropf is singing.

  • Sid Leader (unverified)

    Hey Kari.

    You sure Jazzy Jeff wasn't "fiddling" while Oregon burns?

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    I realize the special session is wired for a quick, one day shot, but if for unforeseen reasons it opens up and goes longer, I would urge Legislators to fix -- or better yet -- simply do away with HB 2614 before ballots are mailed.

    It's confusing, and risks the unintended consequence of disenfranchising Oregon primary voters. The intent may be semi-justifiable, but how it would work in transactional terms seems grossly unfair.

    I'm a registered Democrat. If I vote in the May primary, but chose to undervote in the Gubernatorial election, there's no reason my signature for Ben Westlund should be invalidated.*

    Further, I do not think that Keisling's Open Primary system should be given this public relations gift as they prepare for the fall campaign. Despite the serious issues raised about minor parties exclusion with the Keisling initiative, it seems clear that proponents are poised to use HB 2614 as Exhibit A in making the case for this massive electoral overhaul.

    I am voting in the Gubernatorial primary, and haven't actually signed a Westlund petition. Still, this scenario raises a basic issue of fairness. * Also, let's be face the reality here. Westlund is going to be on the ballot, and supporters of HB 2614 are ultimately just making Ben's case for him with this maneuver.

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    Payday loan reform is now up in the Senate.

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    Charlie, I believe you can vote in the primary--just not with a partisan ballot. If you vote in any partisan primary race, it stands to reason you have a partisan registration.

  • LT (unverified)

    Walking around the capitol this morning, I talked with several people about the "hot button" issue of how Jessica's Law will be paid for. Sure it covers horrific crimes--but that is no excuse to avoid talking about how it will be paid for. After all, 'tough on crime no new taxes' was the LOSING slogan for Gov. in 2002.

    "Think about the victims" is not a method of payment. "If only we weren't giving away so much money in the kicker" IS a proposed method of payment. But only one legislator I spoke with got that specific.

    I was told it won't kick in for about 8 years--does that mean future legislators will have to pay for something passed by a 2006 special session?

    I was told only activists care about details --by a staffer. I met someone who may or may not fit the description of "activist" (parent concerned about schools) who said of course public figures should have details in a row BEFORE they have public meetings.

    Perhaps there are people who are worried about attacks as "soft on crime" if they don't vote for Jessica's Law.

    But it seems to me that legislators have a responsibility to tell the rest of us how they intend to pay for what they pass in "tough on crime" measures. A friend of mine told me that the Criminal Justice Comm. had figures showing how many cases a year would fall under Jessica's Law. This is the website. http://www.ocjc.state.or.us/

    I'm not sure in just a few minutes on that site that I found all the information (I just found reported crimes and arrests, not convictions). But it seems to me this merits further study.

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    and by the way, just got word that they passed what appears to be leg . concept #9--filling the DHS gap. $53mil directly, $83mil from the Legislative Emergency Board.

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    A friend just called on his way out of the building...

    The school funding bill passed -- which allows a new levy of up to $15 million for Portland schools. The payday loan reform bill passed -- pretty much as written in the initiative. Jessica's Law has passed the House, and is expected to pass the Senate. Then, $42 million in additional lottery funding was sent to schools - turns out about $65-68 per student in Oregon. Plus they added about $140 million for DHS.

    All in all, everything happened pretty much as choreographed.

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    Press release from the Senate Dems:

    SENATE DEMOCRATS GO FIVE-FOR-FIVE IN SPECIAL SESSION Prevent Cuts at DHS; Increase Funding for Schools Statewide; Avoid Teacher Layoffs in Portland; Crack Down on Sexual Predators; Cap Payday Loan Fees SALEM – In a dramatic demonstration of leadership, Senate Democrats today won passage of all five bills they fought to include in special session. Those bills reflect the top priorities of Oregonians, and the top priorities of Democrats: health care, education, public safety, and economic fairness. “Today counts as a victory for all Oregonians,” said Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown. “After spending months putting together detailed and comprehensive proposals on each of these issues, our hard work paid off, and the people can be proud of their Legislature.” Preventing Cuts at the Department of Human Services The path to a successful special session was first set in December of last year, when Senate President Peter Courtney responded to the initial announcement of the DHS budget shortfall by pledging to ensure that no cuts would be made to vital services for our most vulnerable citizens. From the start, Courtney (D-Salem/Gervais/Woodburn) and Brown (D-Portland) made clear that the Legislature would need a concrete and achievable plan in advance of special session, and that’s exactly what Senate Democrats delivered. “By preparing early, and staying focused, we were able to fulfill our moral responsibility to preserve health care services and other essential programs for children, seniors, and people with disabilities,” said Brown. Increasing Funding for Schools Statewide (Excess Lottery Revenue) Senate Democrats also took the initiative when it was discovered in early March that the state lottery fund was running a surplus of over $42 million. Immediately upon learning of the windfall, Senate Democrats suggested that the Legislature use the special session to earmark the excess funds for schools statewide. “As Oregon recovers from the recent recession, our schools are still suffering the consequences,” said Sen. Vicki Walker (D-Eugene). “We should be doing everything we can to help, and that’s exactly what we did today – we seized a golden opportunity to help our state’s schools as they are striving to reduce class sizes, restore programs, and maintain full school years for our kids.” Avoiding Teacher Layoffs at Portland Public Schools (Extending Gap Bond Authority) At the same time as Senate Democrats were developing their plan to distribute excess lottery money to schools statewide, they also proposed extension of gap bond authority for the Portland school district, which was facing a potentially devastating budget shortfall. “Maintaining strong schools is critical to attracting new businesses to Oregon, and cutting teachers in the state’s largest school district would undermine that effort,” said Sen. Ryan Deckert (D-Beaverton). “By extending Portland’s gap bond authority, we’ve given the school board the ability to maintain reasonable class sizes for the upcoming school year.” Cracking Down on Sexual Predators (Jessica’s Law) After working behind the scenes for months, Senate Democrats went public three weeks ago with a call for the Legislature to pass Jessica’s Law during special session. Senate Republicans followed suit a week later, and there was soon bipartisan agreement in both chambers to pass a comprehensive bill that would increase penalties for sexual predators who target children. “Once we knew special session was a possibility, we immediately began looking at Jessica’s Law so we would have the time to do it right,” said Sen. Brown. “We added an important provision on kidnapping that was missing from the bill the House sent to the Senate at the eleventh hour last session, and the result was a better bill and stronger protection for our children.” Payday Loan Reform One year after Senate Democrats first passed payday loan reform, and one month after Speaker Karen Minnis (R-Gresham) indicated that the House would agree to such reform, this top Democratic priority has been enacted into law. “The bill we passed today combines reasonable interest-rate caps with other key protections against predatory lending practices,” said Sen. Floyd Prozanski (D-Eugene), chair of the Senate Committee on Consumer Protection. “It represents a compromise that allows good-faith lenders to make a fair profit, while stopping the loan-shark behavior that has been trapping so many working Oregonians in a vicious cycle of debt.” All five bills passed today received unanimous Democratic support in the State Senate.
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    A slight correction, ballots have gone out already to overseas voters.

    In terms of Jessica's law, this is in essence a one strike law. The legislature better be prepared to figure out how to build several more prisons in the near future.

    This will also max out county jails as people wait for trial. Given the fact that most county jails are overcrowded already, this probably will alos effect them as well.

    People can complain about taxes and have a lock'em up and throw away the key mentality. It's either one or the other. If that's what Oregon wants, then we are going to have to pay for it.

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    And there they went.... sine die.

  • David (unverified)

    Does anyone happen to have a clip of the singing legislator during today's session? If so, I'd love to hear it.

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    Duly noted David. Torrid -- you're right. You can vote, but there's confusion in the implementation of 2614 in part because of the obvious problem of secret balloting... actually, you know, it's already sine die so c'est la vie.

    The payday loan package is a huge victory. It's an important consumer protection, and we'll beat Minnis yet -- ballot measure or no ballot measure.

    Game on, Dems!

  • myranda (unverified)

    Hello, everyone. Wow, that was a well-organized session, with great outcomes... so unlike the five special sessions under the last administration. I hope that the blueoregon bloggers who relentlessly suggest that our governor isn't a leader will put this session in their proverbial pipes and, well, you now the rest.

  • Disenchanted (unverified)

    Myranda, One must ask the question why they could not have passed 4 of the 5 bills last session? Why now? Because this lack luster Governor and legislature needed the good press. That's why. Another question: Why did they not address the corporate kicker? What they did for schools and DHS was to apply bandaids. We need better than this. A good PR ploy does not make a leader!

  • LT (unverified)

    Not only that, but how are they going to pay for Jessica's Law? What I heard too often from members of both parties was that it will be years before the extra sentences kick in--maybe 8 years--so they don't have to worry about paying for it in this biennium.

    I have more respect for a legislator who said we might be able to afford it if we didn't have the kicker, and a challenger from another part of the state who sent me an email saying "When Measure 11 passed, we were spending $377 million per year on our prisons, now we're spending $1 billion.

    Stable funding and cost/benefit of these programs is something that we need to address."

    But then, that is the difference between soundbite politics and attention to detail.

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    While it did mean some good for Oregonians, this was done for the political good of people like the governor and Minnis. They can now point to these actions and say they did something.

    But why did we have to wait this long? Why did Oregonians have to pay higher rates on payday loans from the time the session ended last year until now? That's several hundred thousand loans.

    Why did PPS have to go without its ability to raise more funds until now?

    The list goes on...

    He "leadership" showed during last year's session when he didn't propose a school plan until the session was almost up, didn't participate in budget talks, didn't use pressure to make sure bills like payday loans got a vote, etc.

  • JHL (unverified)

    Disenchanted... you're right... and not only that, but look what the Speaker offered to the Governor for his PR swing: Payday loans, which are now muted as a high-turnout-producing initiative for Dems. As if the Speaker wasn't going to get anything out of it.

  • Clinton (unverified)

    Jenni- Pay Day Loan Reform doesn't even start till July 1st, 2007! That is what the ballot measure proposes as well. My only hope is that Minnis doesn't go back and gut it in the next session.

    I've got the words of the song Kropf sang on my blog (myownmusical.blogspot.com), there are audio archives for the Special Session (http://www.leg.state.or.us/listn/) but someone would have to find the clip and cut it up. If you do, let me know.

    All in all the session was rather straightforward. The D's can win the publicity game if we come out and talk about the importance of education, human services, and citizen protection from predetory lenders- the Republicans just jumped on the bandwagon late.

    Band-Aids, yes, but even some Rs didn't vote in favor of them- they'd rather have the open wounds.

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    Exactly. And in the meantime, they'll take advantage of hundreds of thousands of Oregonians. They should have passed it last session.

    That's why we need the Dems in charge-- so that negative changes can't be made.

    At least some of us are lucky enough to live in cities that have passed their own regulations. The interest rates may be the same, but at least there are other options, such as longer time to repay and being able to make payments.

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    Charlie, next time I am alone (or with one other Oregonian, Blair Bobier) testifying against bad bills like HB 2614, I will give you a shout.

  • askquestions1st (unverified)

    Actually, quite a shameful and pathetic spectacle other than the unavoidable emergency action to keep DHS going. But then, isn't the real issue that it even that it got to this point?

    Quite frankly, the only bigger embarrassment right now than our elected leadership are the people of Oregon who elect a cast of clowns like this to represent us. As much as a decent person is compelled to reject the founders' elitism, the breakdown of effective governance at the state level and the federal level forces one to at least ponder their essential thesis that it would be a challenge for the people to successfully exercise even a representative democracy.

    Unfortunately, although we have to hope and work for the best, we may have yet another chance in the fall elections just how prescient the founders's were: Careful reading of the available state-by-state numbers suggest won't do much to change the status quo, since for the most part they seem once again to show the time-honored pattern that most voters feel it is the other guy's elected leaders who are the problem and not their own. And this most recent fiasco demonstrates Oregonians are no exception to that rule.

  • Patty Wentz (unverified)

    I agree with those here who say the Oregon legislature left some important things undone, but I think there should have been only one additional bill: legislation to ban Jeff Kropf from singing on the house floor. For those in attendance, it was excruciating.

    But on topic: can we get a shout out to Oregon Food Bank, Ecumenical Ministries of Oregon, Ellen Lowe and Rev. Dan Bryant? They, along with all the good people who have been working tirelessly to pass payday loan reform deserve a pat on the back.

    Kudos also to the journalists who have kept this issue front and center - Bill Graves of the Oregonian, Brad Cain of the Associated Press and Jeff Wright of the Register-Guard. All three have done yeoman's work investigating the ugly underbelly of payday lending.

    And passage would have been impossible without the leadership of House Majority Leader Jeff Merkley and Rep. Jackie Dingfelder, who have been tenacious in their efforts to crack down on predatory lending in Oregon. Also, laurels to Senate Majority Leader Kate Brown and her staff for pulling back the curtain when the payday loan industry pulled an astroturf stunt and dumped a mountain of postcards from "concerned borrowers" on the desks of lawmakers. And not enough nice things can be said about Sen. Floyd Prozanski of Eugene. He guided this bill through the system and protected it like a pitbull.

    (Okay, maybe we're a little giddy over here at Our Oregon. Call it a victory hangover.)

    Unfortunately, now the real work begins. Yesterday, Speaker Karen Minnis refused to allow an amendment to change the effective date of the legislation to January, 2007. So now, the payday loan industry has until July of 2007 - the length of the next session - to work their mojo on their lawmaker friends. And they have made it crystal clear that they intend to destroy these reforms. We know that House Majority leader Wayne Scott is with them - he hates this legislation. And he's already received at least $8,500 in campaign donations from the industry. So we're not done yet.

    Here's more information about how things went yesterday.

  • myranda (unverified)

    Hi, everyone. Wow, I am beginning to understand that there is nothing that the governor or legislature can do that will satisfy you. They work together to have the shortest special session in history--and you cry "o, it's just politics!" They pass the payday loan bill--and you cry "o, it wasn't soon enough and it helps Karen Minnis." Don't you get the big picture? Don't you see that the governor and the legislature got it right? Don't you see that Minnis got boxed in? No, you'll never admit to these two branches of government getting it right. You prefer to whine from the sidelines.

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    No, getting it right would have been doing it last year during the '05 session. Coming back and doing work you should have over six months ago isn't getting it right by any means.

    They did it now because they had no choice-- the people of Oregon would have enacted payday loan reform if they didn't. And they would have looked like idiots for not passing it in the '05 session nor the '06 special session. It could very well have meant them losing in November.

    Real courage would have been having a longer special session to deal with controversial items (corporate kicker, for instance). Instead they dealt with items that were pretty much going to pass without problem. The Rs just figure they can gut/weaken the payday loan reform next year. But in the meantime they can campaign on them doing something about it.

    And you're damed right the payday loan reform wasn't soon enough-- we were one of SEVEN states not doing this. It should have gone through a long time ago, and it definitely should have in the '05 session. Now we'll have to wait more than a year for it to actually take effect-- more than enough time for changes to be made. In the meantime, more than 700,000 loans will be made.

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    And saying we're whining from the sidelines seems to say we're just whining and not doing.

    Not everyone can be in the legislature or governor-- there are only so many positions. But just because you aren't in one of those positions doesn't mean you aren't acting.

    Many of us are working hard to ensure we have a better state government next year. We're phone banking, canvassing, and volunteering. We're not content to sit back and let things happen-- we're working hard to make sure they do.

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    Minnis may have been boxed in, but she's left the flaps open. Voting yea now is just a hedge for next session to get them through the elections hopefully still in control of the House. They're betting that they neutered the issue for November, and can work the bill over when things calm down.

    That's why it's imperative for the Democrats to take the House back. Taking the house means keeping the payday loan bill as is.

  • LT (unverified)

    There was much not to like about the special session, but I have to disagree with this. Real courage would have been having a longer special session to deal with controversial items (corporate kicker, for instance). Instead they dealt with items that were pretty much going to pass without problem. The Rs just figure they can gut/weaken the payday loan reform next year. But in the meantime they can campaign on them doing something about it.

    Many legislators have bad memories of the 5 special sessions a few years ago (which did Oregon no good--think of the Measure 28 fiasco) and those of us with long memories recall the 1982 special session. I heard a radio report saying it had been over a month, I just recall it as long and bitter.

    Whatever else you question, don't question a Senate President who was a young member in 1982 wanting to get out in hours rather than in days, weeks, or months.

    So, now use the corporate kicker as a political issue and lets get all those Dem. challengers to GOP incumbents elected!

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    I wasn't being sarcastic about the Payday Loan bill. I think it's truly a great victory and important public policy. It also wouldn't have happened without the organizing done by EMO, Our Oregon, Oregon Food Bank and a lot of other groups who held Minnis accountable on this significant consumer protection. Everyone who worked on this deserves a HUGE thank you.


    It's easy for me to say in hindsight, but I would have enthusiastically lobbyied against it; unfortunately, I was managing a campaign in New York during session.

    Great work, Patty, btw.

    If the Legislature fails to address the Kropf problem, perhaps we can work out a free market solution. We should send an audition tape to these guys: The Right Brothers -- Kropf joining would be a true win-win for our state.

  • Winston Wolfe (unverified)

    All you cynics and haters out there keep this in mind: The five bills that passed were all democratic bills and the leadership managed to open Pandora’s Box and close in it six and half hours.

    “Lots of cream, lots of sugar.”

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    I was really excited about the payday loan legislation until this: ay Day Loan Reform doesn't even start till July 1st, 2007! That is what the ballot measure proposes as well. My only hope is that Minnis doesn't go back and gut it in the next session.

    All the more reason to get Brading elected, I guess.

  • Levon (unverified)

    The Blazers finished with the worst record in the NBA. Wayne Scott is a big Blazer fan - the silver lining to this terrible season.

    Payday loan legislation passed yesterday. Wayne Scott spoke and voted against it.

    Generally, what's bad for the corpulent one from Canby is good for Oregon.

    Enjoy the weekend!

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    This burst of alleged bipartisanship may be bad for Rob Brading, but it's a gold mine for Mike Caudle. Mike's running against Wayne Scott, AKA The Enforcer (R-Canby). Wayne really is target #2 at least, and he's shown his true colors once again in defending unlimited interest on Payday Loans.

    Progressives that are focused on Brading, like me, need to remember that Mike is on a similarly sacred mission.......

  • Sid (unverified)

    Curious... does Wayne Scott ever cast himself as being representative of "good Christian moral values"?

  • captain dandy (unverified)

    I haven't seen anyone mention Gary Weeeks when talking about the DHS mess. Was it mere coincidence that he ran off to Washington while DHS burned? I think not.

  • captain dandy (unverified)

    Oh yeah... I forgot to mention the 29 million dollars taken from the Staley Settlement savings that didn't fix much, but could have gotten the 2000 people waiting for help exactly that.

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    Dan, Put me on that list, too. Time to crank up the op ed pens for November, eh?

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