The Liftoff: An eyebrow-raising legislative candidate shake-up
PLUS: OR leaders react to Roe v. Wade decision; Gov. Brown declines a Biden request; all politics is (inter)national for golf tournament; Seaside's legally dubious response to homelessness; and more!
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1. The end of Roe v. Wade in Oregon
What does the end of Roe v. Wade mean in Oregon? As of today, not much—abortion is still legal without restrictions in Oregon. And if Democrats retain control of either chamber of the legislature or the governor’s office, it is unlikely that any restrictions will be implemented. Here are some reactions from state leaders:
Quotes from State Leaders
Speaker Dan Rayfield: “We will not let our despair at today’s decision overwhelm our need to work even harder to protect and expand access to all forms of reproductive health care.”
House Republican Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson: “I applaud the Supreme Court's decision to return this issue back to the states. Oregon continues to have some of the most extreme abortion laws in the country.”
Secretary of State Shemia Fagan: “It is still your right. You can travel to Oregon to get an abortion if you need to.”
Governor Kate Brown, who announced a “Multi-State Commitment to Reproductive Freedom” with Gov. Gavin Newsom (D-CA) and Gov. Jay Inslee (D-WA) said this: “Abortion is health care, and no matter who you are or where you come from, Oregon doesn’t turn away anyone seeking health care. Period. Let me be clear: You cannot ban abortion, you can only ban safe abortions — and this disgraceful Supreme Court decision will undoubtedly put many people’s lives at risk.”
Meanwhile, many Oregon-based companies, including Nike and Adidas, will cover abortion through their health plans and reimburse employees for associated travel/lodging costs.
In his concurrence on the Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade, Justice Clarence Thomas said the Court should re-consider previous decisions related to gay rights and contraception. Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley say that the most effective way to protect the LGBTQ+ community is with national legislation.
2. Gubernatorial candidates weigh in on abortion after SCOTUS decision
Tina Kotek: “Abortion bans are bullshit. And dangerous.” She added: “We worried this day would come. That’s why I stepped up to pass the nation’s strongest reproductive rights law, so that abortion access is protected here, no matter what happens at the Supreme Court. That’s all on the line this November. Oregon can’t afford to go backward.”
Christine Drazan: “As governor, I will stand up for life by vetoing legislation designed to push Oregon further outside the mainstream.” In a follow-up statement, she drew a distinction between her and her opponents: “Don’t let Tina Kotek and Betsy Johnson use today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling to distract from their failed records. They’re extreme on abortion just like they’re extreme on everything else.”
Betsy Johnson: “I am pro-choice. This is a bedrock issue for me, and frankly, for Oregon. A fundamental right. As Oregon’s independent governor, I will always defend and protect a woman’s right to choose.”
3. Legislative news: An eyebrow-raising candidate shake-up, a new vision from a new house chair, and an “incredibly disappointing and incredibly unsurprising” state audit
Inside Speaker Dan Rayfield’s appointment of Rep. Janelle Bynum to the House Economic Development and Small Business Committee—and what she plans to do in her new role.
The Democratic nominee for a battleground state senate seat in the Keizer area, Woodburn Mayor Eric Swenson, is stepping down and urging Rep. Teresa Alonso Leon to replace him on the ballot to face GOP Sen. Kim Thatcher. According to the Capital Chronicle, Sen. President Peter Courtney was shocked by the move, and former representative Brian Clem thinks that it could hurt Democrats’ chances of winning the seat in November.
Rep. Bobby Levy, in her role as president of the Eastern Oregon Women’s Coalition, organized a large, bipartisan panel of legislators in Hermiston. The committee urged relationship-building and appeared optimistic about Oregon’s future.
“Incredibly disappointing and incredibly unsurprising”: That’s how Sen. Elizabeth Steiner-Hayward described a new state audit that found insurance companies are not complying with the recently-passed Reproductive Health Equity Act.
Some low-income workers will be receiving $600 checks from the state, in accordance with a bipartisan bill passed by the legislature last year.
4. Journalist Les Zaitz joins The Bridge to discuss why he’s optimistic on the future of news, how journalists can close the urban-rural divide, and his coverage of Rep. Greg Smith
Les Zaitz is a well-respected figure in the Oregon journalism world (and beyond, as we discuss), having spent decades working in the industry both as a reporter and, more recently, as a media entrepreneur. He is retiring from his post as the founding editor of the Oregon Capital Chronicle and will continue to lead two local publications, the Malheur Enterprise and the Salem Reporter.
This was a fun episode—Les is funny, knowledgeable, and direct. We cover many aspects of journalism (local vs. national news, business models, the rise of "creators", whether the state should fund news, etc.), as well as the recent controversies involving the Malheur Enterprise and Rep. Greg Smith and some new ideas on closing the urban/rural divide. You can support Les' work at the Enterprise, the Reporter, and the (free!) Chronicle.
5. This week in housing and homelessness
A state economist estimates that 168,000 Oregonians have been priced out of owning a home—just in the last six months.
It looks like People for Portland has given up on their homelessness ballot measure that would have redirected funds toward shelters and enforced camping bans.
In Seaside, as the homeless population grew and some residents’ frustration escalated, the city adopted a solution that it acknowledges may not survive a legal challenge: requiring homeless individuals to move every day. In other Seaside news, the city held its first ever Pride parade.
6. All politics is international: LIV Golf tourney sparks outcry from Oregon leaders
Teri Lenahan, the mayor of North Plains, was featured prominently in a Washington Post story about the controversial Saudi-backed LIV Golf tournament happening at the Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club in the city she leads. The Saudi government has a long record of confirmed human rights abuses—and some are accusing LIV Golf of “sportswashing” the Saudi record. The tournament has attracted some big names, including Phil Mickelson and Dustin Johnson, who have essentially forfeited their ability to compete on the PGA Tour in favor of eye-popping financial incentives to compete with LIV.
Here’s a quote from Senator Ron Wyden to the Associated Press: “It’s wrong to be silent when Saudi Arabia tries to cleanse blood-stained hands, in the fight for Oregonians to get justice — Fallon Smart was killed very close to our house in Southeast Portland, and the person charged with the crime, a hit-and-run death, was, based on all the evidence, whisked out of the country by the Saudis before he stood for trial.”
Steve Duin tells the horrific, infuriating story of Smart’s death—with no accountability for the Saudi man who killed her and secretly fled the country—and eviscerates the owners of Pumpkin Ridge. His advice? “Stay the hell away from Pumpkin Ridge in the coming week.”
7. Is tourism driving homelessness in Oregon?
Does tourism (think Airbnb, hotels, etc.) contribute to homelessness in Oregon? Some people think it does—others, not so much. 61% of Oregonians believe tourism will increase traffic congestion—and 67% say tourism contributes to a strong economy for Oregon. Thanks as always to the Oregon Values and Beliefs Center for the graphic and data!
8. News roundup: Gov. Brown not interested in gas tax pause; Richard Whitman retires; secessionist movements join forces?
The leader of one Oregon secessionist movement (State of Jefferson) has endorsed another Oregon secessionist movement (Greater Idaho).
A coalition of several business groups are challenging Oregon OSHA’s new rules on heat and wildfire smoke, filing a lawsuit in a U.S. District Court.
Willamette Week reports that “Oregon Did Better With COVID Than All but Four States”
Longtime state government leader and current head of the Department of Environmental Quality Richard Whitman has announced his retirement after 25 years of service.
Rebecca Shuman at Slate penned an op-ed about her “absurd” experience dealing with a home break-in in Eugene.
President Joe Biden has urged Congress and state leaders to pause collection of gas taxes over the summer. Governor Kate Brown is not interested.
A Spanish shipwreck from the 17th century has been found off of Oregon’s coast and the history nerds are all about it.
An informative WW interview with Donnie Oliveira, the new head of the Portland Clean Energy Fund, (the city agency that oversees distribution of ~$90 million, created by a ballot measure) revealed that other city agencies would like a share of PCEF money for other projects.
Thank you for reading.
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About the Authors
Ben Bowman is the chair of the Tigard-Tualatin School Board and a Democratic candidate for Oregon House District 25 (Tigard and Beaverton). In his day job, he works for the Oregon Department of Education. Previously, he worked as a legislative aide for former Reps. Margaret Doherty and Val Hoyle. He also co-hosts The Oregon Bridge podcast. In the newsletter and podcast, he speaks only for himself.
Alex Titus is a small business owner and consultant to businesses, nonprofits, and associations. Previously, he served as an Advisor in the Trump Administration and as a Policy Advisor to President Trump’s Super PAC. His writing has appeared in National Review, Fox News, The Hill, RealClearPolitics, and other publications. He also co-hosts The Oregon Bridge podcast.