Legislative Report for February 15, 2019
Oregon lawmakers are wasting no time moving high-profile measures this session. On Tuesday, the Oregon Senate voted nearly along party lines (17-11; two Republicans were excused) to adopt a first-in-the-nation statewide rent control law. The measure bans no-cause evictions after a tenant has been living in the residence for more than 12 months and limits future rent increases to seven percent plus annual inflation. In previous sessions, rent control has been one of the most contentious political fights but is moving with relative ease in Salem this year. In fact, the bill has already been scheduled for a public hearing in the House on Monday, the minimum amount of time needed to move forward on a bill according to chamber rules. The swiftness of the process is emblematic of the seriousness of leadership to advance their aggressive agenda for session and to clear the way for more controversial issues later into the session.
Similarly, the Ways & Means Committee has already approved a series of health care assessments intended to balance the Medicaid budget. In previous sessions, these funding packages often become tied up in the legislative process for several weeks and months as deals are struck on other controversial issues to garner votes from Republican members. This session, however, the legislature is already advancing its funding plan—comprised of an increase to the hospital provider and insurance assessments and the creation of a new assessment on the stop-loss reinsurance policies paid by self-insurers—with bipartisan support. The governor and legislative leadership had committed at the beginning of the session to addressing the funding for the Medicaid program in the first eight weeks, and it appears they will meet their timeline early.
We are now six weeks out from the first major deadline of session. This means legislative committees will begin ramping up the speed at which they are holding hearings and votes on measures. Over the next several weeks, we are anticipating a rush of activity in committees trying to work bills or send them to the rules committees to put them on life support. Additionally, we are expecting to see activity around the cap-and-trade and tax reform proposals begin to take centerstage. The Joint Carbon Reduction Committee has announced it will be holding meetings around the state to hear from local communities on the impacts of proposed climate legislation. For tax reform, we are nearing the release of the initial modeling on several proposed options for a business entity consumption tax. Together, these two issues will become the most important and politically controversial issues of session. It’s no wonder leadership has made it a priority to get some of those other bills out of the way before these issues dominate the conversation.
Cap and Trade Policy—A Snapshot of Testimonies
This week the Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction heard invited testimonies from Transportation, Natural Resources and Industry Stakeholders on HB 2020, the bill aiming to enact a cap-and-trade policy that would decrease greenhouse gas emissions to a level 80 percent below 1990 emissions by 2050 in Oregon.
Testifying for the agricultural sector was Brenda Frketich with Oregon Farm Bureau who explained to the committee that the challenge with farming is that pricing of crops are not determined until they are sold leaving margins unknown throughout the year. She said farms must absorb the complete cost of fuel and natural gas. She noted that agriculture already sequesters carbon, yet the industry is not given credit in HB 2020. Ms. Frketich said despite spending months in 2018 working with the Governors Carbon Policy task force crafting language for the bill it does not exist in the bills current form. She added that an ag fuel exemption that was expected in HB 2020 was also notably absent.
Jana Jarvis, President, Oregon Trucking Association gave detailed testimony in opposition to HB 2020 for the trucking industry testifying that the trucking industry in Oregon pays the highest fees in the nation and that to add a cap and trade policy on top of the already implemented carbon reduction policy of 2016 will put the Oregon trucking industry at an unfair advantage. She also testified that currently the industry transports 80 percent of Oregon tonnage. Ms. Jarvis encouraged the committee to consider a diesel tax option instead that would be revenue neutral and protect the Highway Trust Fund.
There was additional testimony regarding the potential increase price of fuel and that bordering areas of the state will simply see consumers going to Idaho where gas will be up to $2 a gallon cheaper by 2030 if the cap and trade policy is enacted.
Testifying on the industry panel was Peter Saba, Senior Vice President of Schnitzer Steel. Mr Saba also testified in opposition to the carbon reduction bill, telling the committee that their Cascade steel plant in McMinnville produces steel from recycled scrap metal. He added that 90 of the mill’s electricity comes from non-carbon sources and they also use natural gas. He said that even though steel mills are included in the EITE’s (emissions-intensive trade-exposed) they would still begin incurring raising costs in the first year. He also questioned the ambiguity of the bills language and said he would like the bills specifics spelled out in statute and not left to rule making.
Schedule of Hearings
The Committee announced they will be taking the committee on the road with hearings around the state including:
- Springfield: Friday, Feb. 22 – Springfield City Hall, Council Chamber (12 pm – 3 pm)
- Medford: Saturday, Feb. 23 – City Council Chambers, Medford City Hall (9 am – 12 pm)
- Remote: Monday, Feb. 25 – Remote testimony (live video feed from Newport and Baker City), Oregon State Capitol (TBD)
- The Dalles: Friday, March 1 – The Dalles Civic Auditorium, Community Room (12 pm – 3 pm)
- Bend: Saturday, March 2 – Central Oregon Community College, Cascade Hall, Room 246-248 (9 am – 12 pm)
To watch the full hearing go here> http://oregon.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?clip_id=25756
Legislative Report for February 8, 2019
Like many other states, Oregon lawmakers have been grappling with workplace harassment concerns for more than a year now after revelations by Sen. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis) about inappropriate conduct by male colleagues, which was followed by an outpouring of similar stories from other women lawmakers, staff, and lobbyists. The heavy microscope on these issues, combined with a scandalous report from the Bureau of Labor and Industries at the end of Commissioner Brad Avakian’s term, has increased scrutiny on the handling by legislative leadership and human resources of sexual harassment concerns. Leadership is working to correct some of the systemic issues in the Capitol and began this week by beefing up a training for members and staff on appropriate workplace conduct. Unfortunately, the training has appeared to heighten, rather than alleviate, tensions after a hired trainer failed to address critical issues and protocols for handling them. House Speaker Tina Kotek (D-Portland) responded swiftly to these concerns by firing the trainer, who was scheduled to give additional seminars next week. It appears the controversy regarding these issues will continue for the foreseeable future.
Many committee hearings were not scheduled this week because of the workplace training seminars, leaving the remaining committee activities focusing on niche issues. With that said, there were several major proposals that began moving forward in the legislature.
- On Monday, the Senate Housing Committee advanced, along party lines, a proposal to impose the first-in-the-nation statewide rent control policy. SB 608 would prohibit landlords from evicting tenants without cause after renting for a year and limit rent increases to seven percent plus inflation.
- On Thursday, the House Health Care Committee advanced a much-awaited package of health care assessments designed to balance the Medicaid budget. HB 2010 consists of an increase to the existing hospital and insurance premium assessments, as well as a new assessment on stop-loss reinsurance. The bill will now move to the Joint Ways & Means Subcommittee on Human Services for further review.
Separately, the legislature will consider an increase of $2.00 to the tobacco tax and a surcharge on employers that do not provide a sufficient level of health care benefits to their employees.
- Also on Thursday, the state’s largest business association provided a high-level overview of a proposal to raise taxes on Oregon businesses. The concept, a counter to the repeated attempts to enact a gross receipts tax, suggests taxing businesses based on their gross receipts minus their purchases from other firms. The plan is designed to address the concerns of pyramiding in a gross receipts tax, where the tax is compounded and ultimately paid for by the consumer at rates several times higher than the statutory rate. The association said multiple times it is unsure if its members would support the concept being suggested but want to be part of the ensuing tax reform debate. In addition to the concept, the association tied substantial spending reforms, such as public pensions, and tax relief as a precondition for their support to any broad business consumption tax. It is unclear, however, if the Democratic supermajorities will have the appetite to incorporate such reforms as part of their end-of-session package.
Looking ahead to next week, leadership is likely to cancel the workplace conduct trainings. Additionally, the weather may be a factor in deciding the tempo of the building next week. Forecasts predict snowfall in Northwest Oregon over the weekend and throughout the week, and if the past is prologue, the legislature could grind to a halt at the first signs of inclement weather.
Oregon Department of Agriculture holds budget hearings
Alexis Taylor, director of the Oregon Department of Agriculture, spent three days in front of the Ways and Means Subcommittee of Natural Resources presenting the department’s budget (HB 5002) fee structure (HB 5003).
Director Taylor presented four areas of the department’s budget: 1) Administrative and Support Services; 2) Food Safety and Consumer Protection Programs; 3) Natural Resource Programs; and 4) Market Access, Development, and Certification Programs.
There was public support given to the agency’s budget on Wednesday, including a letter of support from Katie Fast of Oregonians for Food and Shelter, who was joined by 12 other agriculture groups supporting the budget with amendments. You can view the support letter here.
Sen. Lew Frederick (D-Portland) voiced concerns regarding the use of M44 in the Predator Control Program and asked about their use in relationship to the budget. Rep. David Brock Smith (R-Port Orford) asked Director Taylor questions regarding the fee-for-services increase in the previous budget for the Kentucky 31 investigation. Director Taylor told the committee that the use of M44 was through county funding and supplied a list of the counties contributing to the APHIS Program. She also told Rep. Brock Smith that the K31 investigations had been dense and had required more paperwork than recently anticipated but that the investigation would be concluding soon.
For a complete look at the ODA 2019-2021 budget, click here.
Carbon Reduction Committee update
This week, the Carbon Reduction Committee began discussions through invited testimony on the newest bill language regarding the Oregon Cap and Trade bill, also known as Cap and Invest, the Clean Energy Jobs Bill, or Oregon Climate Action Program, depending on who you ask. Much of this week’s discussion focused on the gas tax proposals, which would be on top of the gas tax increases passed as part of the 2017 Transportation Package. Concerns for the legislation’s potential for disproportionate negative impact on rural Oregon is already increasing. Over the next two weeks, the committee will be hearing from invited testimony regarding the bill concepts. It was announced that the Joint Carbon Reduction Committee will be arranging public hearings throughout the state on the legislation. The locations and times are currently being finalized and will be announced soon.
The Joint Ways and Means (state budget) Subcommittees continued their Phase I budget reviews. Traditionally, the budget review process is taken in three stages. Phase I includes agency overview presentations and recaps on the current budget. Phase II contains discussions on budgetary issues, drivers, and related topics. Phase III is the finalization and passage of the new biennium budgets. Public hearings with invited testimony are usually included in each phase. This week, the various subcommittees held budget discussions related to the following agencies and boards: Board of Dentistry, Board of Licensed Social Workers, Board of Chiropractic Examiners, Health Related Licensing Boards, Mental Health Regulatory Agency, Long-Term Care Ombudsman, DHS – Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, Overview of the Medicaid Provider Tax Programs, Department of Agriculture, Department of Consumer and Business Services, Department of Administrative Services, Employment Relations Boards, Criminal Justice Commission, and Board of Parole and Post-Prison Supervision.
Legislative Report for Friday, February 1, 2019
Lawmakers have settled into the Capitol and have the gears of the legislature running on all cylinders. The committees have mostly completed their agency and policy orientations, and are preparing to schedule hearings on hundreds of bills poised for consideration. Among those bills are billions of dollars’ worth of appropriation requests for the legislature to consider. In fact, Sen. Betsy Johnson (D-Scappoose) penned an opinion article in the Portland Tribune from her vantage point as one of the co-chairs of the Ways & Means Committee. She writes that in one day she received more than $750 million in funding requests from various interest groups and that commitments from the past, like pensions, always include a price tag. “There’s a lesson here for lawmakers,” she writes. “Be careful which laws you pass. Your constituents will be forced to live with—and pay for—the consequences.”
Finding the funds to pay for those appropriations will be one of the central debates of the legislative session. It has not taken long for the legislative work on taxes to get underway. The Joint Committee on Student Success was created in 2018 to design a plan to improve outcomes in the public schools systems and devise ways to adequately fund those investments. The Joint Committee has spent the past year traveling around the state fielding input from local communities on needed investments in their schools. The committee has returned to Salem with not only that input but a menu of investment options for lawmakers to consider. As part of the bicameral process to tackle these issues, leadership has created several subcommittees to tackle the major policy questions needing to be answered before an investment plan can be outlined. Among those subcommittees, and possibly the most important one, is a group that will exclusively consider a business entity consumption tax as the funding mechanism for those investments. The subcommittee began its work this week with a high-level briefing on the variety of business taxes considered.
The Joint Committee on Carbon Reduction has been working on designing a state cap-and-trade program. The committee held meetings throughout the interim to engage with economists and environmental scientists about design options and considerations for implementing a carbon pricing regime. After months of these discussions, the committee held a hearing this afternoon to release its initial draft of the enabling legislation. Well before the hearing, however, Republican lawmakers criticized Democratic leadership in the committee for cutting them out of the drafting of the bill. This is only the beginning of the rhetoric we will soon be hearing as the political fight deepens. There will be a presentation on the economic impacts of the proposal on Friday, February 8.
The legislature is preparing for a busy week ahead. In the House Health Care Committee on Thursday, lawmakers will be briefed on a proposal to fully fund the Oregon Health Plan. Currently, this funding package will propose increasing the current hospital and insurance assessments. In addition to those existing taxes, there will be a new tax on the reinsurance policies of self-insured plans and an assessment on employers not providing a certain level of health care benefits to their employees. Leadership has set an ambitious goal of moving the funding package through the legislature in the first eight weeks of session. Separately, there will be legislation introduced to increase the tobacco tax by at least $2 to fill the gap in Medicaid funding.
It will take some time for the legislature to figure out how to operate under the dual supermajorities. If every member voted as a rank-and-file member of their caucus, Democrats would have the votes needed to pass any and all taxes proposed for this session. In the past, Republican support was needed to move controversial tax measures and those votes would be use as leverage to control other measures in the legislature. This year, however, that negotiating power is largely in the hands of centrist Democrats who see themselves as the decisive votes on major legislation.
Legislative Report for January 25, 2019
Oregon lawmakers commenced their annual legislative session this week, two weeks earlier than the previous session. In 2018, the legislature passed a bill allowing lawmakers to begin the session immediately following their organizational days to prevent the final days of the five-month session from overlapping with the Independence Day holiday. Despite the earlier start date of the legislature, the chambers maintained their usual schedule for releasing legislation, cutting out the customary two-week review period of bills before activity in the Capitol begins.
The committee activity in the Capitol this week mostly revolved around orientations and agency introductions. Unlike sessions of the past, committees are giving their members a more detailed crash course on the policy topics they will be discussing. This change in the start of session is likely a reflection of the high amount of turnover in the legislature and wanting to make sure the new members have an opportunity to learn the people and the issues. Will this actually result in more informed policy? Time will only tell, but these briefings will provide at least a baseline understanding of the issues throughout session.
The calm in the building will not last long. Over the next several weeks, lawmakers are poised to begin discussing some of the most complex and controversial policies in recent memory. Several liberal advocacy groups have set their sights on a robust policy agenda for session to take the dual supermajorities for a test drive on a whole host of issues. Democratic leadership has been trying to temper some of those expectations, understanding the trading that will need to occur to maintain the peace among their rank and file members. Meanwhile, the Republican caucuses have largely lost their ability to meaningfully influence the legislative process by denying critical votes on tax issues. With that said, there some members who are warming to the idea of working alongside the supermajority in the hopes the goodwill will allow them to advance their priorities for their districts. Democrats may not need Republicans to move forward on their ambitious agenda, but there continues to be immense political value in courting bipartisanship to stave away potential ballot measure threats on issues such as a revenue package, a tobacco tax increase, and a Medicaid funding plan. As your lobbyist, our strategy for this session will largely revolve around working with moderates in both chambers and caucuses who are focused on passing substantive policies that move the state forward and encouraging them to fight for your interests in Salem.
Gov. Kate Brown’s first public testimony: campaign finance reform
On the first day of committee hearings in the new Senate “Campaign Finance Committee,” Gov. Kate Brown testified on her campaign promise to get big money out of politics by enacting campaign finance reforms. She testified to the committee that her goal is for incresed transparency in reporting and a contribution cap. The committee, chaired by Sen. Jeff Golden (D-Ashland) and Vice-Chair Tim Knopp (R-Bend), will spend the session looking for a path forward to reform campaign finances.
It is unusual for a governor to testify often in committee hearings, but as an integral part of her campaign goals, Gov. Brown told the committee that this reform is at the top of her priorities to ensure that every Oregonian has a voice. She said that can start with paid postage on ballots so that every mailbox is a ballot box.
Gov. Brown acknowledged that her last race for Oregon Governor was the most expensive candidate race in Oregon’s history and that she alone had raised six times more than any of her Democratic predecessors. She said Oregon needs to follow other states in initiating a cap on contributions.
She noted to the committee that “dark money” coming into Oregon needs to be reported with real-time technology and not with 30-day gaps so that Oregonians can “follow the money.” She said that “dark money”—referring to money by third-party donors or nonprofits who don’t have to report where money comes from or how it is spent—makes our current system comparable to the “Wild, Wild West.”
Gov. Brown said she is frustrated at the interpretation of Oregon’s Constitution that has not allowed previous attempts at reform and is optimistic to work with the committee and legal experts on the best path forward. She said that any reform to campaign finances will need to go to the voters in 2020 as a Constitutional Amendment.
Matt Garrett resigns as Director of ODOT
It was a resignation that came as a surprise to many when Matt Garrett, Director of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), turned in his resignation letter last week to the Governor. Garrett began his career at ODOT in 2005 after working for U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield. He has served under three governors during his tenure at ODOT. In 2017, he led the agency in their work with the legislature in passing a historic transportation package of which Gov. Brown said Oregonians will see the benefits for decades to come.
What does the departure of Garrett mean to the Oregon Department of Transportation? It’s hard to know. One would expect a nationwide search will ensue and expect there to be changes at the top of the agency staffing positions. ODOT could very well be the agency most important to Oregonians as not only does it ensure a vital and safe transportation infrastructure so important to the trucking and exporting of Oregon agricultural products, but it is also the agency that creates the most jobs for Oregon’s workforce. Garrett will stay on as Director through most of the 2019 session. Stay tuned for more as the Governor begins the search for his replacement.
Legislative Report for Friday, December 14
Lawmakers convened in Salem for the final round of interim hearings for the year and the first since the election. In November, Democrats gained supermajorities in both chambers of the legislature, the Holy Grail of political power for those who wield it. Since the Oregon Constitution requires a three-fifths majority to enact any new taxes or raise the rates of existing taxes, Democrats may not need to negotiate with Republicans in order to act on some of their most aggressive policies for the upcoming session, such as a multibillion-dollar revenue package and a tax on carbon emissions. Despite this newfound control of the legislative process, however, the conversation about these demanding issues appeared to stay out of focus for the most part.
Much of the attention in Salem focused on the political dramas consuming the halls of the capitol. In particular, there is a brewing conflict between certain legislators and legislative leadership over the implementation of a pay equity bill adopted by the legislature in 2017. The legislation expanded protections against pay discrimination for public and private employers and made employers liable for disparities regardless of intention. The new law, which goes into effect on January 1, will also affect the pay of capitol staff. Without clear direction from leadership or state regulators, some legislators have begun to share their frustrations with the media. In fact, Sen. Brian Boquist (R-Dallas) included the capitol press in a hotly worded email exchange with the Senate President, to which he received a cease and desist directive in response.
Besides receiving updates from state agency officials regarding ongoing issues and upcoming initiatives, the level of activity in the capitol this week was noticeably low. This may be partly because of the coming holiday and the legislature waiting until the new members are sworn in to begin the heavy lifting of session. The more likely reason for the abnormal silence, however, is that Democratic leadership is needing to manage the varied interests of their caucus to hold the moderate and liberal wings together—the most trying task in politics.
We are beginning to see committees introduce their legislation for the upcoming session. These bills include taxes on businesses large and small, rewinding property tax limits from the 1990s, a new tax on plastic bags, mandated paid leave policies for employers, and new requirements on employee scheduling. You should expect to hear from your account leads in the coming days and weeks alerting you of legislative measures and helping identify strategies for accomplishing your goals in the 2019 session.
2018 General Election Report
Midterm elections are often thought to be a referendum on the president and his party. In fact, in most recent elections the party in control of the White House has lost seats in both congressional chambers during midterm elections. After two years of pent-up anticipation, Democrats were able to harness the animosity towards the current administration and redirect it towards suburban districts to reclaim the U.S. House of Representatives, ending one-party rule in Washington, D.C. Despite their successes in ending one-party rule and restoring checks and balances, however, the so-called “blue wave” forecasted by political pundits never came as Republicans added to their majority in the U.S. Senate.
The rhetoric from President Trump in the final weeks of the election—focused on issues such as late term abortions and birthright citizenship—motivated the president’s base in regions of the country that strongly supported his agenda. On the other hand, the same rhetoric motivated Democratic messages of “resistance” in their persuasion efforts in suburban battleground districts. These factors, high turnout in suburban and rural regions combined with a friendly map for Republicans, produced a government that could not be more divided.
There will be some who will try to argue the blue wave landed in Oregon, but we disagree. Democrats performed exceedingly well in the urban and suburban areas of the state, propelling Gov. Kate Brown to a second gubernatorial term and adding to their majorities in the legislature. These races are not an outlier to the national trend; in fact, they fall precisely within it. The suburban battleground districts featured Republicans running not only against their Democratic opponents but also against the president. Given the strength of Democrats across the country running against the president in these suburban districts, it is no surprise that Oregonians in these areas sided heavily with Democrats.
Governor Kate Brown Defies Polls, Secures Re-Election Bid Quickly
After months of polling that consistently showed the race as a dead heat, most political pundits expected ballots would be counted for hours or even days before the winner would be determined. Both the Brown and the Buehler campaigns were shocked when Governor Kate Brown was declared the victor only several minutes after polls closed at 8 p.m. That said, by 1 p.m. the next day, Governor Brown had still only captured a plurality of the vote at 49.6 percent to Knute Buehler’s 44.2 percent.
This was not the first time Kate Brown and Knute Buehler faced off in a statewide contest. In 2012, Knute Buehler entered Oregon’s political scene with a splash by challenging then-Secretary of State Brown’s re-election bid. This was seen as a bold move, however, Buehler ultimately lost by 8.1 percent (51.3 percent to 43.2 percent). Since then, Buehler successfully ran for State Representative, twice securing a district with a substantial double-digit Democratic registration advantage. As a state representative, Buehler built a reputation as an impressive fundraiser, at times outpacing even Democratic leadership, which as a rank and file member of the minority party, is nothing short of remarkable.
Fast forward four years and Knute Buehler had built the political resume, the necessary relationships, and the fundraising prowess to re-enter the statewide arena. Buehler’s strategy was to spend money early when TV ads were cheapest, in an effort to move poll numbers early and attract additional investment. This fundraising strategy proved successful, banking nearly $17 million in 2018 alone, more than any gubernatorial candidate in the history of the state. Brown also raised an impressive $14.7 million this year but spent most of her money in the final weeks of the election. To put this amount of money into perspective, Knute Buehler spent $22.50 per vote and Kate Brown spent $17.34 per vote, which in either case is more than any candidate has ever spent previously per voter.
In the end, turning out money is no match to turning out voters. The Democratic Get Out The Vote (GOTV) ground game Republicans often call “the machine,” was amplified by the infusion of dollars from Brown’s campaign. The Democrat’s GOTV efforts were concentrated in urban and suburban neighborhoods for maximizing down-ballot benefits in legislative battlegrounds. Since the last midterm election (2014), Democrats increased turnout in Multnomah County by 6.3 percent and Washington County by 5.3 percent which destroyed the polling models for which pundits had based their predictions—delivering a decisive win to Brown.
Democrats Gain Supermajority Control of Both Chambers
The state legislative campaigns in Oregon followed a similar trend as congressional races across the nation. Democrats competing in urban and suburban districts performed exceedingly well. In the Oregon Senate, Democrats maintained all of their current seats and added a new district from Medford. Senator Chuck Thomsen, an incumbent entrenched in his district and the legislature, was feared to have lost last night after initial reports showed him more than 100 votes behind his opponent. However, during the early morning hours, he regained the lead. The closeness of this race was a surprise for many given the candidate’s approval and familiarity in the district, but his candidacy was being challenged by a trifecta of outside factors—a contested congressional campaign, a competitive legislative race for the Oregon House and the general anti-Republican temperament of moderate voters. Assuming that Democrats only pick up the one seat it will mean their caucus will have supermajority control of their chamber and potentially the votes needed to raise taxes without negotiating with Republicans. We say “potentially” because Senator Betsy Johnson, one of the last remaining moderate Democrats, will become an important check and balance in the legislative process.
The Oregon House Democratic Caucus, often the driver of a more liberal agenda in the legislature, was without question the most successful caucus of the night. Democrats not only protected every single incumbent but added three more districts to their caucus. These wins come from Hood River, West Linn, and Scholls.
- Rep. Jeff Helfrich (R-Hood River), an incumbent appointed to the seat earlier this year, was embattled in a campaign to maintain the seat in his party’s control. Without much of a voting record and multiple stumbles along the campaign trail, the candidate was one of the few expected losses for Republicans. Anna Williams, his Democratic opponent, outspent and outworked his campaign and leveraged the resources of neighboring campaigns.
- Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn), an entrenched incumbent, who was thought to be invincible in her district ran against Rachel Prusak, a nurse. There was almost an exclusive focus on health care by her opponent. As a nurse, she compared Rep. Parrish’s recent efforts to repeal the Medicaid assessments in Oregon to the congressional efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
- Rep. Rich Vial (R-Scholls) was among the many legislators not running a competitive campaign. His opponent dropped out of the race in August and a replacement, Courtney Neron, was appointed by the county party. Everyone assumed he would be a shoo-in for the race and did not need a robust campaign infrastructure. In fact, the race was ignored so much that both caucuses decided polling would be unnecessary and Rep. Vial was redirecting his campaign funds to support Republicans in other races. Given there was no real campaign for either Rep. Vial or his opponent, this race may be indicative of the down-ballot effect of national politics in Oregon.
Like the Oregon Senate, the Oregon House will be controlled by a supermajority. The supermajorities in the legislature are expected to result in a renewed focus on higher taxes, new environmental regulations and additional restrictions on industry.
Oregonians Reject Slate of Conservative Ballot Measures
In addition to the host of state and local candidates featured in last night’s election, Oregonians decided the fate of several highly contested ballot measures.
- Measure 102 (Allowing public bonds for privately owned housing): Passed
Measure 102 was referred to voters by the legislature and would allow cities and counties to use their bonding authority to finance privately-owned affordable housing projects. The idea behind the measure was that private owners are eligible for federal grants and tax credits that could be leveraged to put taxpayer dollars to best use. The measure was approved 56 percent to 44 percent.
- Measure 103 (Ban on grocery taxes): Defeated
Measure 103 would have created a constitutional prohibition for any consumption tax on the sale of groceries in Oregon. The measure was presented to voters as a protection for households on fixed budgets by proponents and as a backdoor ban on soda taxes by opponents. The measure was defeated 57 percent to 43 percent.
- Measure 104 (Supermajority requirements): Defeated
Measure 104 would have amended the state constitution to expand the three-fifths vote requirement by the legislature to raise revenue. Currently, the state constitution requires a three-fifths majority of the legislature to pass legislation creating a new or raising an existing tax rate. The measure would have required any bill bringing in new revenue (such as eliminating tax credits, ending deductions or raising fees) to be subject to the requirement. The measure was defeated 65 percent to 35 percent. Most notably, this was the only state-wide measure in recent years where results were similar in both urban and rural areas. 35 of the 36 counties voted no.
- Measure 105 (Repeal of Oregon’s sanctuary state law): Defeated
The measure to repeal Oregon’s Sanctuary Law fell by a margin of 25 percent, even though there was concern regarding the federal administration’s amped up attacks on immigration. The opposition campaign pushed late fundraising efforts, and voters fell in line with up-ballot trends for Democrats. The measure was defeated 63 percent to 37 percent.
- Measure 106 (Prohibiting the use of public funds for abortion services): Defeated
Measure 106 was the last measure added to the November ballot in early summer, taking many pro-choice groups by surprise that the necessary number of signatures was gathered for the November ballot. Measure 106 was defeated by a margin of 30 percent and we can expect to see this coalition working on the FAMLI Act for Paid Family and Medical Leave in 2019.
There will be some people out there who will try to convince you the election represents a landslide or a wave for Democrats. As we have argued, we do not see this as either but rather a realignment of our politics. We are seeing areas of the country that were once heavily contested become safe and others that have long been thought to be safe come back into play. We can attribute much of this to President Trump and the new political coalition that forms his base. In areas of the country with heightened diversity, such as urban and suburban neighborhoods, we are seeing the tides shift toward more liberal candidates and causes and the opposite in more homogenous areas of the country. This is nothing new; however, the emergence of President Trump and his tearing up of the traditional playbook has accelerated already fractured politics.
Looking ahead, Republicans hold an advantage in the U.S. Senate map for the 2020 election. Republicans will be defending seats in 21 states with a strong voter registration advantage. This means that Republicans may have control over the federal appointments for the foreseeable future, making a lasting impression on the workings of government for years to come.
We anticipate the 2019 session to be structurally different from sessions in recent memory. The Democratic supermajorities in both chambers, coupled with the resounding defeat of the anti-tax ballot measures, may present a perceived mandate to leadership as they work to address a mounting budget deficit. The supermajorities may also add pressure for leadership to push harder for previously abandoned efforts, such as strict gun control laws, new environmental mandates and major medical malpractice reforms. While the votes on paper may make these liberal priorities seem easily achievable, there will still be a mounting pressure from legislative coalitions to protect their interests. Additionally, Democrats in Oregon have historically broken into factions after winning strong majorities in the legislature. These factions pit moderates against the more progressive members of the caucus. With the balance of power shifting even further in favor of one party, our relationships with allied legislators have never been more important.