Extraordinary Legislative Session – the ‘Pax Portlandia’

Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli

Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli

​Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli

On February 2nd, as the most senior member of the Oregon State Senate, I had the honor of opening the 78th Legislative Session. Last November, state legislatures around the country flipped from Democrat-led to Republican. In fact, today, almost two thirds of legislative assemblies in the country are Republican.

Oregon was not among those that flipped. The power centers in Oregon turned a deeper shade of blue as Democrats picked up seats in the Senate and held their lead in the House, thanks to public employee and trade unions, environmental front groups and out-of-state green energy billionaires.

Then a bizarre scandal overwhelmed the Kitzhaber administration, forcing the Governor and his first lady to move from Mahonia Hall in disgrace. As the couple left, rumors concerning multiple investigations by federal and state agencies only served to heighten the surreal atmosphere.

Throughout the first, difficult days of the session, Democrat leaders of the House and Senate ruthlessly pursued their agenda of “unfinished business” from previous sessions. Last session, a thin but unshakable bi-partisan majority in the Senate repeatedly blocked bad, ill-reasoned and expensive proposals, deeply frustrating the Portland Progressives and setting up a Tsunami of bad bills aimed at rewarding supporters of the dominant party political machine.

Payback for out-of-state billionaire & subsidized bio-fuels companies

First among the “unfinished” proposals is Senate Bill 324, the so-called “low carbon fuel standard” engineered to reward out-of-state billionaire Tom Steyer and others whose heavily subsidized bio-fuels companies stand to reap unprecedented windfalls.

The cost for these carbon credits will, of course, be passed on to consumers who will experience a “hidden gas tax” of from .04 to .19 cents per gallon by the low range of estimates, or as much as a $1 per gallon by industry estimates.

Not one penny of this hidden gas tax will fund road improvements, bridge replacements or highway safety. Instead it will increase the demand for, and therefore the cost of, blended fuels which cannot be used in today’s internal combustion engines without significant decrease in mileage and efficiency. Many of the engines currently in use in agricultural, heavy haul, construction and other industrial applications cannot use this fuel at all.

Oregon is already in the top five nationally for low carbon emissions. In other words, reducing Oregon’s .068 percent share of the Nation’s total carbon emissions will produce a negligible impact in the state that is unmeasurable in the region, the country or the world. Sadly, this symbolic gesture will cost tens of millions at the pump in an era where gas prices are highly volatile and rapidly rising.

Payback for Trial Lawyers

The Democrat’s “unfinished business” also included payback for Trial Lawyers who heavily fund their campaigns. House Bill 2700 promises rich rewards for Trial Lawyers who pursue class action lawsuits. Under the new law, not only can the attorneys claim fees of up to 40% of the total amount awarded, half of the unclaimed amount will automatically go to Legal Aid (read: Trial Lawyers), and the other half of the unclaimed portion will be awarded to “the non-profit of the Judge’s choice,” which includes political organizations that make campaign contributions.

SB611 also creates a windfall for Trial Lawyers by “stacking” personal injury coverage in auto insurance claims. Now, all injured parties become “co-insured” by adding the total amount of Personal Injury Protection from all policies into a grand total available for award that can now include “pain and suffering.” This means larger awards, and of course, larger fees for Trial Lawyers. The bill will cost $55 more per policy, per year for car owners. Own two cars? Pay $110 more per year in premiums.

Democrats with unchecked political power

So far, actions taken by the majority have harmed small business, cost Oregonians more for energy, transportation and insurance, and have enriched political contributors and special interest groups.

Add to these proposals, the so-called “motor voter” law that automatically registers all those who obtain an Oregon driver license, and the value of citizenship is degraded to a numbers game where the “churn” benefits areas where population growth is greatest. New Oregonians tend to be young, well-educated, underemployed and politically progressive.

My Democrat colleagues are fond of the saying “elections have consequences” as they revel in their unchecked political power. They look forward to forcing a .06 per gallon increase in the gas tax to fund the Transportation package. But look out. That increase will likely end up in a statewide referral where Oregonians will have the final word on what may be a .55 cent-per-gallon cost increase for fuel when all the “hidden gas taxes” are added.

Newly minted Governor Kate Brown is at a crossroads. When she signs the low carbon fuel standard bill, she signals there will be no change in direction from the status quo. That means the same people who have bankrolled Democrat Governors from Goldschmidt to Kitzhaber can expect a reliable partner in Brown.

Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R) represents the citizens of Senate District 30 which includes Baker, Grant, Harney, Jefferson, Malheur, Wheeler and parts of Clackamas, Deschutes, Lake, Marion, and Wasco counties.