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Hot Air Society

May 14, 2015

During the last six regular sessions of the Oregon Legislature, I have had the honor and privilege of serving with Marla Rae and Jon Chandler — two of the most profanely funny bipartisan lobbyists in the business — as a judge in the Golden Gobbler Awards honoring the worst bills introduced each session. This party has been around forever, hosted by Pamela Jones, Mark Nelson and his lobby firm, Public Affairs Counsel, at their beautiful home on the Willamette. Mark invites legislators, staff and lobbyists, and the price of admission is a sense of humor and a bill that should not be.

May 7, 2015

As this column goes to print, yours truly will be a whole new person in approximately two weeks. No, no, this isn’t a Bruce Jenner moment, about his transgenderfication and his alleged dedication of his balls to Obama.

April 9, 2015

A few years back, House Republican Julie Parish blew the whistle on a group of Republican House caucus good old boys who went down to Palm Springs to get close to some “harmless visual stimuli” at a G-string circus. Sort of an adult Spring Break! This year, Republicans decided to clean up their act. It appears every Republican in the capitol is headed to Las Vegas this year instead to catch a Penn and Teller magic show.

April 2, 2015

OK, maybe I was a little premature last week picking Ted Cruz to win the Republican presidential primary. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker received 25 percent support from likely Iowa caucus attendees in a poll released last Wednesday, leading Rand Paul (13 percent), Mike Huckabee (11 percent) and Jeb Bush (10 percent). Of course, early presidential polls a year before voters start the nominating process tend to show name recognition and are not a predictor of caucuses and primaries or who will become the nominee.

March 26, 2015

Alright, already! Enough about federal politics; we already know the outcome of the 2016 presidential primaries: Elizabeth Warren versus Ted Cruz. According to U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, Hillary Clinton was last seen dumping her personal email server in the Deschutes County dump. Thinking she was actually serious about running, I had already switched parties and sent Texas Senator Cruz my contribution. He’s perfect for me, as a former Democrat. He has endorsed outsider Tea Party candidates against sitting U.S.

March 19, 2015

The fubar scenario in Salem’s Capitol last week began with Governor Brown’s support of the low-carbon fuel standard, SB 324 and the Republican reaction. The Oregonian, the R-G and Republican legislators immediately blew up an overdue transportation infrastructure plan, a plan that likely would have resulted in the only significant bipartisan accomplishment of this session, all because Kate chose to sign SB 324.  

March 12, 2015

It’s so much more entertaining watching Salem politics than the Boehner and McConnell Obamadrama immigration fiasco in D.C. The Oregon Senate already previewed snarky political hot-air theater in its raucous partisan debate over low-carbon fuel emissions, and the House then passed the low-carbon bill to Kate Brown in a 31-29 dust-up after sticking Kate’s motor voter bill down the collective Republican pie hole. And speaking of Kate, Gov. Brown signed her first bill, a change in the outcome of class-action suits, a Democrat target since last session.

February 26, 2015

The mood was still somber in Salem this past week. John Kitzhaber’s gone, Kate Brown’s sworn in and the political landscape of Oregon settles in after the tsunami. Last Tuesday I took a bottle of Wild Turkey, a copy of my Feb. 12 EW column and my retirement announcement over to the Capitol. I knew I wouldn’t see John so I searched out one of his closest companions over the years, a state trooper from the Dignitary Protection Unit.

February 19, 2015

What a difference a week makes! I’m shocked and saddened that he walked away the way he did. The most painful part for me was watching a news clip of him Wednesday night repeatedly telling a reporter he had no intention of resigning. There was no toughness, just the raspy monotone of a defeated man. 

February 12, 2015

A lobbyist popped this question last week at Magoo’s, my local watering hole in Salem: What are the three most hated and feared words these days to an Oregon Republican? I guessed maybe “taxes/gay marriage” or “equitable income distribution.” Turns out they are: “Governor Kate Brown.” Now you know why the current Republican minority leaders in Salem are being relatively quiet in their attacks on Gov. John Kitzhaber and fiancé Cylvia Hayes. Something about the devil you know.

February 5, 2015

As Oregon Democrats sadly watch federal politics in our country slide to the right in most states with little to say — Oregon being only 1 percent of the country’s population — it will at least be fun to watch President Obama wield the veto pen as he enters his last term facing a Republican majority in both chambers of Congress. In just three weeks John Boehner and Mitch McConnell have already stumbled on abortion and immigration. Who knows what’s next, another government shutdown?

July 18, 2013

When the press reports that the Oregon Legislature adjourned sine die, it does not mean physician-assisted suicide by trigonometric function. Gov. Kitzhaber’s not that kind of doctor. Sine die is Latin for “without a day,” meaning in this case that the 77th session of the Salem Hot Air Society is done for this year, kaput. There will be an additional $1 billion for schools, some half-hearted PERS reform and no additional background checks for guns. Next session, next February, unless there’s a special session.

June 6, 2013

Rumors abound in Salem’s Capitol these days. Summer is two weeks away and the deadline for completing this legislative session is only five weeks away. Is there a deal imminent? Negotiations for a final budget yet?

May 23, 2013

Looking back in my legislative rearview mirror, it’s amazing to think about issues facing the 2013 legislative session that weren’t even imagined in 2003. Facebook and social media protection for workers, for example, or protecting human placentas from overzealous right wingnut hospital administrators, or drones. Ah, did I mention a collapse of the housing market? This 77th edition of Salem’s Hot Air Society will have to consider another daunting problem: local government bankruptcies in Oregon.

May 16, 2013

Deadlines come and go in Oregon’s legislative cycle. The deadline for most committees to post notice of action on bills that have cleared the other chamber is May 20, and the deadline to complete action on those bills is May 31. The legal deadline for session adjournment is July 13.

May 2, 2013

Oregon daily newspapers are hardly worth reading anymore. The bias against public employees, the woeful reporting/analysis of the current legislative session by both The Oregonian and The Register-Guard is bloodthirsty and pathetic. Reporting last Wednesday, the most significant votes of this session — PERS reform and a $275 million tax plan — in their zeal to blast Democrats and Speaker Kotek, both papers lost sight of the pyrrhic nature of the victory the Republicans won in the opening skirmish. 

April 25, 2013

During the deafening mayhem of the Boston Marathon, there was a vote in D.C. that stunned people: 45 members of the U.S. Senate caved to the NRA demand that they defeat a bipartisan background check expansion amendment. Put another way, 90 percent of the Republicans voted against it, 90 percent of the Democrats voted for it. This is a measure that polled at 82 to 90 percent support among U.S. voters.

April 11, 2013

As much as I dislike people who talk about themselves in the third person, I am beginning to seriously distrust the author of this column. Last week I bamboozled you into thinking that damn PERS bill, SB 822, went down the Ways and Means rabbit hole, never to be seen again until the back room budget deal at the end of Hot Air Society session in July. For any of my three loyal readers who actually thought I knew what I was talking about — think again. I was totally wrong.

April 4, 2013

The mood in Salem’s Hot Air Society took a turn for the worse this week as Democratic leaders opened up hearings last Tuesday on PERS (Public Employees Retirement System). I was hoping that Speaker Tina Kotek and Senate President Peter Courtney would form a special joint committee dedicated to PERS alone. Instead, they combined the House and Senate Rules into a joint committee for the purpose of taking testimony on the various PERS measures out there.

March 28, 2013

As Spring arrives, the 77th Hot Air Society is devolving into Salem’s version of our national political gridlock. Republicans are showboating with an unacceptable PERS reform proposal and refusing to negotiate over new taxes. Meanwhile, Democrats are hiding the ball on specific PERS reforms, quite understandably, until the Ways and Means picture is clearer.

March 14, 2013

When we did PERS reform in 2003, we didn’t attach it to the budget as severely as you’re seeing in this 2013 version of the Hot Air Society. It’s stunning to see both parties and two branches of state government simultaneously tying the funding of education, public safety and human services so tightly to one target. 

March 7, 2013

During the first two months of any Oregon legislative session, early in the game, the fringe usually shows up. Single-issue, uncompromising intimidators beat their wedge issue drums for all to hear. The self-righteous anti-choice wackjobs — with their red roses and plastic fetuses — for example. And the angry Second Amendment crowd — with their paranoid delusions. These folks collectively make the Capitol building look more like a concentrated confederacy of dunces than usual.

February 28, 2013

Everyone knows Salem is the official site of the Hot Air Society, and currently all 90 members, both chambers, meet at the state Capitol building. However, Eugene has its own version, called HASSLES, the Hot Air Society of South Lane, Eugene and Springfield. It began in 1806 when two geezers, I mean pioneers — Floyd Frank Prozanski, a former Texas A&M Aggie, and Dr. Paul Kaplan, a semi-retired frontier gynecologist — began their search for the cheapest happy hour beer in Lane County.

February 21, 2013

No more “Insider Baseball.” I’m not an insider any more, and my knees don’t allow for softball, much less baseball. But I continue to watch the Salem political game from afar; shoveling horse pucky here in the south hills of Lane County and reflecting on the days when horse pucky was my day job in the Legislature.