Tuesday, April 03, 2007

House GOP Balks on M37 Fix; Voters Still Want Change

In today's Statesman-Journal, veteran political scribe Peter Wong details the complaints coming from the minority side of the House chamber in Salem, as once again Republicans seek to poison the well when it comes to working towards compromise. What's a little unusual this time is that one of the people doing the complaining is the very same person spearheading those efforts on Measure 37 reform:
House Republicans who have been involved say the Democratic co-chairmen of a joint committee spoke too soon when they conducted a news conference last week about a potential solution.

Rep. Bill Garrard, R-Klamath Falls, said he is interested in achieving two things in a bill. One is a right of landowners to transfer their development rights to others. The other is to reduce the growing backlog of court cases.

"We know we have to give something to get transferability," Garrard said Monday. "But nothing has been agreed upon at this point."

Garrard, who led the House Land Use Committee in the 2005 session, said he recognizes that whatever emerges from this session will have to cap development rights. But he said that details of such a cap and the definition of property ownership are not yet settled.
Over on the Senate side, they're fuming about not even getting the chance to come to the table:
For Senate Republicans, neither Sen. Larry George of Sherwood nor Sen. Roger Beyer of Molalla was part of the work group, even though they sit on the joint committee.

A work group cannot constitute a majority of the committee, or it would violate the state open-meetings law.

Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli of John Day said Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski and the committee leaders "haven't been shy about locking the door to prevent a full and diverse conversation from taking place. It should surprise no one that he calls a strictly partisan meeting to spin the issue."
Strictly partisan? That's not very nice to Rep.'s Garrard and Smith, is it? Last I heard they were Republicans, and they're part of the workgroup. As Wong explains, you can't have a majority of the committee get together, otherwise it becomes an official (public) meeting. And obviously the Democrats are going to assume control and majority presennce in the workgroup.

If Larry George wanted to participate instead of Garrard or Smith, I'm sure Macpherson and Prozanski would have accomodated them. But seats were limited, as they say--and my guess is that George opted out on his own, given a) his personal and professional stake as the former head of Oregonians in Action and someone who stands to benefit from a sizeable claim his parents hold; and b) his credibility in the constituency as a hardline M37 proponent. Being a part of something that many advocates consider tantamount to political treason, probably didn't appeal to George so much.

I'm sure he knows his district better than we do, but I wonder if he recognizes what the entirety of state voters thinks should be done with M37. Following what has been discovered by left-leaning GQR {pdf} last October, and by right-leaning Moore Info {pdf} in February, a new poll apparently commissioned by Goobernor Ted's Opportunity PAC closely verifies what both previous iterations found: over 60% want Measure 37 "fixed," {pdf} if not outright repealed:
Over two-thirds of Oregon voters want Measure 37 fixed or repealed. As shown in Figure 1, when offered three options for addressing Measure 37 (having it remain in effect unchanged, fixing it, or repealing it) a clear plurality of voters (49%) express a desire to fix the significant flaws in the measure while an additional 20 percent would like to see it repealed - together, 69 percent of all Oregon voters. Only one in five want the measure to remain in effect unchanged.
Beyond that main finding, pollsters also found a high level of general awareness about M37, and amazingly strong (80%+) support for the very types of reforms that the workgroup is considering: better documentation of "losses" incurred by claimants (86%); restrictions on development negatively affecting water supply (84%); and fast-track authority (80%) for property owners to build up to three homes on their property (79%).

You can make all the noise you want to about biased polling--clearly, this is exactly the kind of news Kulongoski hoped to hear, and it's likely no coincidence that the poll findings for potential fixes are almost exactly what the workgroup is proposing--but this makes the third professional poll in a row that puts the "change it" support at 60% or better. The selection process--voters who say they'd be likely to vote in a special 11/07 election (presumably on some kind of M37 reform referral?)--is a little odd, but what it likely does to the results is include more people who have strong feelings on the issue, from both sides.

So Garrard and Ferrioli may be up the creek a little bit on this one, but they ought to be thankful they're part of a reform process at all--given the chance, the voters might be a far sight more draconian in their buyer's remorse. Here's hoping Macpherson and Prozanski recognize that as well, and don't give away the farm--pun intended.