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.

  • Bob Clark

    Seems like the Sound Oregon Fuels Policy group which opposed SB 324 (the Low Carb Standard) could fund an Initiative to overturn all law passed with emergency clauses not fitting a more strict definition of emergency. I think this or a related group are instead suing to turn back, delay, the administrative rules adopted by Oregon DEQ prior to the passing of SB 324. The latter is less likely to suceed than the former I believe. An Initiative timed to the November 2016 election would also give the GOP a campaign issue to run against Dems on in 2016.

    The same emergency clause initiative could over turn the motor voter registration legislation just passed also. Two birds or more for the price of one.

    • Guest

      Interesting idea!

  • mike rose

    Your observations are all well and good, Ted. We all recognize how the Dems continue to rule the roost, and foist further tax and spend yokes on the rest of us. But what we really need from you is a plan…an intelligent strategy to turn this train wreck around. Unseat those who perpetuate the Democratic domination. Get the 2 warring factions of the Oregon Republican party together, and run some viable candidates who can win…State House offices, governor, US Congress et al.

    We already know what you are telling us. What can you do to help us out of this mess?

    • HBguy

      There are not two warring factions in the Oregon GOP. There are the social conservatives and the non social conservatives who argue that Republicans have to accept the social conservatives and their influence and their ideology on social issues if they are going to win.
      But the reality is, the GOP can’t ever ever ever win statewide races or gain a majority in either house unless they minimize social conservatism. But those in power in the GOP can only be sure of maintaining their power if they cooperate with the social conservatives. Sure, they’ll be in a perpetual minority, but being speaker, leader, or Deputy in the state legislature is too valuable and intoxicating to risk.
      To the extent there is a debate about whether social conservatives should have less of a role in the GOP it doesn’t come from the GOP electeds.

      • mike rose

        So the socials and non-socials aren’t warring….they’re arguing. Semantic fine line. Maybe a smaller dose of intoxicants should be prescribed, possibly clearing hearts and minds such that the Oregon GOP can build up a stronger, viable opposition to the Dems.

        • HBguy

          I guess I think the real issue is that the non social conservatives have already decided/determined that they can’t win without the social conservatives. So I don’t know that they’re even arguing with them. I think they MAY be trying to get them to tone it down.

          But it’s pretty clear that the strategy for the GOP was to “rebrand”. Changing the label but not the recipe. I hear again and again from the GOP….there’s nothing wrong with our policies, we just need to communicate them better.

          The OR. GOP has chosen a path of perpetual minority status in Oregon. The alternative….modifying the OR GOP platform to present a more moderate “brand” and demoting social issues, would result in a smaller GOP party for an election cycle of two, as the social conservatives quit but the moderate middle hadn’t yet bought into a “new” OR GOP.

          There is one other alternative, but the ensconced GOP partisan operatives would be loathe to do it. Cooperate with the IPO in electing a couple of moderate IPO legislators is some moderate swing districts where the GOP hasn’t been able to break through.

          • mike rose

            HB….I guess that’s my point…OR GOP is doing a piss poor job of communicating. A revolving door of chairs, the social/non social split, a brand so clouded in haze one can’t recognize that it even exists. If cooperation with IPO helps, then make it part of the agenda and get on with it. Just do something. The fine nuances escape some of us Joe Average GOPs, but we remain Republican and want some indication that the party indeed would like to make some gains.

            I repeat….just do something.

          • HBguy

            Maybe we’re talking about the same thing. I’m not sure. My point is, if the OR GOP wants to control one house or Mahonia, they’ll have to change their recipe and jettison the hard edged take no prisoner social conservativism and do so in a clear and convincing way. It’s not a branding or communication thing. Its a substance thing.
            And, the social moderates in the Or GOP have made clear they aren’t willing to do that. They just want to argue about how independents and moderates should ignore the GOP social issue purists and the GOP platform because of democratic corruption makes the GOP better.

          • mike rose

            We’re getting close…substance beats brand. So we repeat again: just do something (of substance). Biggest concern: is there an individual within the OR GOP who can stand up and really lead? Is anyone who attended Dorchester or Convention Center confabs reading this?….listening to this?

          • HBguy

            I think the answer is that no one with leadership credentials in the GOP is willing to risk their power and position by calling the question on social moderation. They’d prefer to let the social conservatives formulate the OR GOP platform and then have candidates who aren’t social conservatives run on a wink and a nod to the platform.
            All that does is convince independents that any moderate GOP candidate will cave to the social conservatives if elected. So….the GOP loses elections statewide and in the moderate swing districts in Washington and Clackamas County.
            This strategy has failed for many years. The GOP has seen losses in the House and Senate. And statewide races are getting to be more and more lopsided.
            And the rural republicans electeds who now dominate the OR GOP leadership and are the only ones on the GOP who could mount an effective re-structuring are all at risk of being primaried a la Jim Thomson/Mike Nearman if they deviate from the social conservative dogma.
            If the goal is to defeat the Democrats, the GOP has to either modify its social conservatism, or work with moderates outside the GOP in select districts then make an alliance with those candidates in the legislature.

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