Monday, January 08, 2007

Legislature/Inaugural Events, LIVE--Afternoon Sessions

[edits and comments added as we go...also, Blogger is acting up, so frogive any outages this morning and afternoon.]

To celebrate what we all hope will be a fresh start for Oregon politics, tune in to The Oregon Channel all day for various events and ceremonies marking the start of the legislative session and inaugural of Governor Ted Kulongoski for his second term. We'll try to keep you updated on what's happening at the various times during the day. For instance, as of now the House should be getting under way; they're currently milling about right this minute. The Senate is due to follow at 9:45 AM, and a joint session featuring the Governor's swearing-in and address is scheduled to begin at 10:45 AM. The program for that event can be found at the governor's site.

To just tune in and see what's on right now, here's the high bandwidth channel, and here's low bandwidth. You'll need RealPlayer for all of it...

As I type, the convening of the 74th assembly is underway! Bob Jenson (HD58-Pendleton), the senior member, is calling it to order. Woooooot!

Democratic Whip Diane Rosenbaum (HD42-Portland) has been appointed Temporary Speaker, and the credential and organization committees have been formed. The chamber will now go into recess while they...organize.

They're back, and everybody's credentialed--all 60 Representatives have been deemed eligible and properly elected, ready for swearing-in.

Having been sworn in, the Committee on Permanent Organization and Order of Business has cleared the way for nominations of Speaker. Dave Hunt (HD40-Clackamas) is nominating Jeff Merkley. Comparing him to Biblical figures ("like Moses, Jeff brings people together") is a bit much, but circumstance comes with pomp in these situations. Owing to the Democrats' 31-29 edge, no other nominations are offered, leading to an aesthetically pleasing unanimous vote--one wishes the floor had more mikes around the members' desks, just to hear the catch in Karen Minnis' and Wayne Scott's throats...

Mark Hatfield, Oregon political legend, swears in Merkley and blesses the body with a short speech. He reminds those in attendance that his first session, in 1951, ended on May 5. (They got the hint.)

Merkley's now giving the deposed Minnis her due, with sincere words but one of the most awkward hugs you'll ever see. You can tell it's not exactly a banner day for the Rep from Wood Village. The old dispensed with, Merkley rings in the new with his opening speech. After introducing en masse the 12 new members, he promises a "grand adventure," which either sounds thrilling or ominous. His short speech was mostly personal, praising Senator Hatfield, showing off his family, and pledging an understanding of bipartisanship.

Speaker Pro Tem nominations now proceed; Rosenbaum draws the call, and also gets unanimous approval.

The Senate has now also come to order, and we can look forward to pretty much the same scenario as the House...although there's a little more ceremony going on. A capella groups and choirs are taking us through the anthem and God Bless America. Also, since only some of the Senate changes each term, there's no need for temporary leadership; prior President Peter Courtney is handling things until the Permanent Organization does their thing.

Chief Justice Paul De Muniz, having finished his swearing (in) over at the House, is now taking care of bidness for the Senators.

Courtney begins speaking in his traditional, booming formal voice that contrasts markedly from Merkley's amiable, casual style. The President notes that in 1859, Oregon was comprised of 520,000 people in just 18 counties and seven cities--one Senator for every 3,279 people. 148 years later, there are 36 counties, 200 cities and 121,000 Oregonians per Senator now. "Our mission is difficult--so much to do, so short the time, so untested the legislative path."

Margaret Carter is now receiving the job of President Pro Tem, having been nominated by Vicki Walker (SD7-Eugene) and elected by unanimous consent.

10:40 AM--
Having completed their business, the Senate has received word from the House, inviting them to meet at their place for the joint session to receive and hear Governor Kulongoski, after which pictures will be taken on the front steps of the Capitol.

11 AM--
The Senators having arrived, the procession of dignitaries begins, including dignitaries such as former Governor Barbara Roberts and the top judges and Justices of the court system...and the Governor has arrived, to thunderous applause.

After recognizing all the other oldheads--former Senate Presidents, House Speakers, et al, the assemblage is being serenaded by Portland's Atkinson Elementary Choir. Unfortunately, the mix was so poor that I had to stop what I was doing and check to see why they'd suddenly gone out of session and were playing "hold music" on the Oregon Channel. Turns out the music part of the song was being piped in directly to the soundboard (near as I can tell), while the mikes picking up the kids singing were apparently placed in some room adjacent to them--there was actual singing heard for only about 3-4 seconds, none of it intelligible. Too bad for those kids; their keepsake recording is ruined unless they are doing their own recording of it.

Courtney is speaking again, noting that 2,120 proposed bills are ready for deliberation even before they get down to business...yikes, and they're sitting around chatting? Maybe I agree with Scott Moore after all.

11:45 AM--
Having heard a short poem from state laureate Lawson Inada, Merkley steps back to the podium and declares Kulongoski's election official, then giving way for the swearing-in and inaugural address...

Wow. Ted gets a lot of well-deserved props for going to Oregon's soldier funerals, but he also noted that when visiting some of the surviving ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, he frequently got requests to call the servicemember's family and give holiday greetings from them--which he says he was honored to do. Can you imagine getting a personal call from the Governor, saying "I met your son/daughter; he/she is fine, and wanted me to send their best to you at home?" What a great gift--it's hard to stay cynical about potential political motives for doing what he did; it just seems like true concern, moving in its modest sincerity.

Wow again--he just said "If you believe, as I do, that the war in Iraq is at least partially motivated by America's addiction to oil..." Not that it isn't true, of course, but remember when saying something like that would have been considered tantamount to treason?

He's putting his foot down on the corporate kicker as well, saying "The people want this, the business community needs this, and the time for the legislature to do this is NOW." (To broad applause, I might add.)

2:45 PM--
The House is back in session, on its channel and so far on the main channel. The Rules Committee has already met and will bring a set of proposals to the floor...and as quickly as they reconvened, they've recessed again in order to caucus in-party. A gaggle of Democrats meeting at the front of the floor just gave Merkley (I assume it was him) the "we're not worthy" move with their arms....

3:05 pm--

They're back again, and Rules Committee Chair Rosenbaum is presenting the proposals just voted on (2-1, with Rep. Richardson dissenting). She is explaining the amendments to the rules from the 73rd session, and debate will assumedly ensue...but first, Rep. Richardson's motion to suspend the rules failed in the first vote of the new session, 32-28 (no indication on who the turncoat Republican was).

3:55 pm--
Rep. Donna Nelson read the motion to notify the Governor that the House had reconstituted for the 74th session. As another one of the ceremonial motions to take care of business for the record, this isn't all that important--but after hearing Rep. Nelson read off her script, shouting louder than the Governor during his address, waving her finger and acting as if she was nominating a Presidential candidate at a party convention, I have to say...that lady is a fuckin' weirdo.

4:00 pm--
If you're reading this close to the time I typed it, go load the main channel. The (or a) clerk is reading all the bills being submitted for consideration...ALL 214 of them (a record, as the Speaker pointed out). He's handed a stack of maybe 20 or so at a time, reading them as fast as humanly possible. Those of you old enough to remember the Fed Ex commercials of old will get a laugh...

Closing announcements:

  • Members to meet at the staircase for pictures.
  • Happy Birthday, Wayne Scott! (yesterday)
  • Get your voting keys and IDs from the clerk if you don't have one yet.

And with that, the House is done until 11AM tomorrow!