Although your advocacy leaders are already thinking about policy proposals and strategies for the 2019 Legislative Session, running as background script throughout this year – and all advocacy activities – is the mid-term election cycle. Without even contemplating national politics… it’s going to get wacky.
The direction of the Senate hangs in the balance as a pivotal race in East Multnomah County is draining the energy and resources of special interests and partisan groups. Despite this being a primary election race, between 2 Democrats, more conservative interests are lining up behind the incumbent, Rod Monroe, as he defends his job against a woman named Shemia Fagan. Shemia has run in a tough election before – and won. While 9-months pregnant.
A win for Fagan on May 15th could mean a change in tack for the Senate, which has halted or diminished many a proposal that has come over from the more liberal House. The other race that is expected to get expensive (and partisan) is in a district in Southern Oregon, including Medford and Ashland. Stay tuned to the Senate, as that one, and possibly one or two others up the valley, will be decided in November.
The House, in turn, has built up its reserves for a long and likely bruising campaign season in districts that have been poised to flip from Republican to Democratic control. Stretching clear through November, a Super Majority could be awarded at the end of the general election cycle. In this particular political climate, appetites to expand the majority further into the red districts are large. Republicans are going to be on the defense in Hood River, a key seat in Bend is theirs to lose. You can expect that conservative interests are going to show up in a big way to keep these two seats, and therefore the power of the democrats to unilaterally raise taxes and pass nearly anything they darn well please.
Meanwhile, Governor Kate Brown is calling a special session. There will be one new policy proposal and it will focus on lowering the tax burden for Oregon small businesses. The focus is going to be on correcting the impacts of a bill in 2018 that disconnected the state and federal tax codes, SB 1528. In doing so, it layers an increase in taxes on a group that was previously left out of negotiations: sole proprietorships. The Governor is not interested in alienating those who are small business owners here in Oregon. So, the intent is to bring these small businesses into the fold of lower rates.
It was certainly not an easy decision to convene a politically costly special session – and there is already partisan bickering beginning – but $1 Billion ain’t nothing to scoff at for those in power and ready to fund state programs. To be fair, the messaging on this special session has the potential to be a political win for everybody, despite the grousing by many, in an election year.
We’ll see what the Governor’s opponent, most likely former State Representative Knute Buehler, paints it as, if not a waste of tax payer dollars or an abomination of the public process. The watch for statewide elected office doesn’t just include the Governor’s race, it includes the Labor Commissioner’s race, as well. Little understood, and unique in the country to be an elected position, it’s a testament to Oregon’s belief in fair employment practices. Former House Majority Leader Val Hoyle is an insider’s favorite, over local town mayor Lou Ogden, but in a race where very few people know how to vote, anything could happen.
It is not just the State Capitol building that is under the haze of politics; also on the ballot is a seeming District Attorney revolution, as a new generation of attorneys step into this leadership role in all 36 counties. Ballot measures you may be asked to vote on include additional gun violence prevention measures, affordable housing via bonding, corporate tax disclosure laws, anti-abortion policies, anti-union measures, anti-vaccination measures and more! Not all of these will meet the many, varied requirements to make it to the ballot, but those that do will have some serious financing.
Buckle up, OCBC, as this election cycle has only just begun…