As the second week of March has come to a close, the legislature is showing no signs of slowing down. Controversial bills and high-profile incidents have caused tensions to run high at the Capitol this week.
Senate President Courtney Takes a Medical Leave of Absence
Senate President Peter Courtney (D-Salem) released a statement on Tuesday announcing that he will take a 10-day medical leave of absence. Spokeswoman Carol Currie confirmed that Senator Courtney is suffering from thyroid eye disease. According to Currie, the Senator’s doctors warned that the condition would worsen without time for a proper recovery. There is scrutiny surrounding this leave due to a coinciding lawsuit implicating Speaker Tina Kotek (D-N/NE Portland) and President Courtney for a failure to address instances of sexual harassment at the Capitol. The lawsuit, filed in February, follows from the story of a former lawyer at the Capitol who says that legislative leadership failed to protect her after reports of gender discrimination and harassment. We will continue to provide updates on this situation as the events unfold. For the time being, Senate President Tempore Laurie Monnes Anderson (D-Gresham) will manage the daily operations of the Senate until Senator Courtney returns.
Funeral for Secretary of State Dennis Richardson
Hundreds of mourners were in the Capitol on Wednesday to pay their respects to Secretary of State Dennis Richardson. This was the first state funeral since 1983 and was attended by numerous current and former lawmakers. Governor Kate Brown noted Secretary of State Richardson’s kindness, respect and civility and the important legacy that he has left in Oregon. Following the service, the military honor guard performed a salute on the steps of the Capitol. After the salute, Secretary of State Richardson’s body was driven to Medford, his final resting place.
Joint Committee on Ways and Means Budget
The Joint Committee on Ways and Means released the 2019 Co-Chairs’ Balanced Budget on Thursday. The Co-Chairs warn of a structural deficit that is projected to worsen for the foreseeable future. They preface the budget by saying that it isn’t possible to provide current services or meet future needs by continuing on the same path we’ve been on for over a decade. The budget is focused on three guiding principles, according to the Committee: providing budget stability and aligning spending with meeting critical needs, prioritizing funding for K-12 education and the Oregon Health Plan, and guarding against service reductions in the event of an economic downturn by maintaining a prudent level of resources.
Similar to Governor Brown’s Recommended Budget (released late last year), the Co-Chairs’ Balanced Budget calls for increasing school funding through general and lottery revenues. Unlike her proposal, this budget doesn’t rely on having more money to work with due to tax increases from the Governor’s recommended tax changes. While some are worried about drastic cuts to state services, the budget seems to have a fair amount of bipartisan support. Shortly after the budget was released, Senate Republican Leader Herman Baertschiger Jr. said, “For the first time in my career in the Senate, it is refreshing to get a glimpse at a budget framework that is fiscally responsible and will leave a healthy ending balance.”
Insiders understand that this budget, despite drawing support from Republicans, is expected to serve as a rallying cry for Democrats to demand more revenue to increase funding for schools.
Dale Penn II
CFM Strategic Communications
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