Saturday, April 28, 2007

Schaufler Bails, Kills M37 Reform by Leg

This is one incredibly frustrating story. A whole lot of the good will and sense of achievement built up during a fantastic session just got a whole lot murkier with the apparent failure of the Democratically controlled legislature to pass ANY meaningful Measure 37 reform, as seemed clear a majority of Oregonians wanted. The Democrats, by dint of one Representative in particular, have decided to punt and in essence make the people prove they want something done.

What else do you call it? That's chickenshit behavior. It's a cop-out, played up as a cautious vote of hope for bipartisanship by Happy Valley Democrat Mike Schaufler (HD48). If Peter Bray at Land Use Watch and Brian Hines of HinesSight have it right, he has singlehandedly killed any attempt at real reform unless a Republican comes aboard on the reform plan.

First of all, telegraphing that is MONUMENTALLY stupid. If your threshhold for a 'Yea' is a bipartisan vote, maybe you tell the Speaker that quetly and let him know they need one from the other side in order to get all 31 Ds. Once it goes public, now you're forcing a Republican into a near suicide move with respect to his caucus. You're almost guaranteeing it won't happen at that point.

But that's all strategy any way. What does this say about Schaufler's vote? Does it reflect any principle other than "the people voted for it 3 years ago?" That's certainly not without weight, but it's helpful if you at least attempt to consider whether they appear to still back it, whether the conditions have proven reform is necessary regardless of what the public thinks, and whether its complexity might require due deliberation rather than a hastily thrown together bill that pretty much punts. Shauffler's saying he won't consider it because a Republican won't vote for it. What kind of nonsense decision rule is that?

Let's take a minute and break that down. When did a bill become the wrong thing to do, just because not one Republican was willing to emerge from behind the iron curtain of Wayne Scott's House Minority Office (go ahead and pick out new carpet and drapes Wayne; you'll be staying a while) and back something the home office didn't want passed? Schaufler is casting the most odious of partisan votes--the vote that validates the partisan strategy of unified-bloc voting by submitting to it. What happened to following the debate and doing what YOU think, Rep. Schaufler? How about making them prove they're against it? What about putting them on the record as being against it, depsite it apparently being at least some version of what most Oregonians want?

If you agree with the premise of the bill, you were supposedly sent to Salem with the idea that you would go ahead and vote for it, so we can move on with whatever the fuck it was and go ahead and DO it. You cannot fairly say you do not know whether voter sentiment is behind you; the hearings yielded "do nothing" testimony from pretty much nobody except the actual claimants, while the rest of it was people saying eine kleine Minute, bitte! The polls, the editorials--if you were really worried about what the public thought, the evidence was there that you had nothing to worry about. I hesitate to draw any firm conclusions from it, but Oregon Forest Industries is a significant contributor, and their interest is certainly with maintenance of M37 in as close to its present form as possible.

The entire process of M37 reform was handled badly, it seems. I did my part from the keyboard, but that was all most of us did. People like Brian and Peter took the time to follow the process very closely--Brian out of necessity, since his home is potentially going to be next to 29 new houses sucking off his water supply if this goes to the ballot. I paid close attention myself while SB505 was bandied about to put a hold on things so reform could be addressed. Once that died and they devolved into sessions without a bill, I moved on to other things. There was never much of a public information campaign by M37 opponents to push the legislators into action beyond the hearings and testimony. This was a golden opportunity to get it done.

And now it seems that now because one guy wants to play roll call with legislation rather than just voting on whether he LIKES it or not, Oregonians now have to re-resolve the question themselves in 17 months, with little more facility for the complexities of the law than they had in 2004. If the evidence is correct and voters do pass the framework, we'll be marginally better off--but we shouldn't have to decide it ourselves again, and we will potentially lose a fair amount of land as claims are rushed through into vestment before the election.

The greatest achievement of this Legislature will surely be the civil unions and anti-discrimination bills soon to become law. The most long lasting and widely-affecting success will be the creation of the rainy day fund. But there was nothing left to do as important as this before sine die (only health care is more important, but that's just not a one-session job and there's not even Democratic consensus on what to do). This had to get done, and that it didn't will surely be the most grave disappointment of the session. I only wish Schaufler had said he would fold like an origami bicycle sooner, so maybe we could have spent more some time on that health care thing, huh?