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    Jennifer Williamson Says She Won’t Run for Portland Mayor

    Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland), the Oregon House majority leader, is not running for Portland mayor, she tells WW.

    “It’s timing,” she says. “I was just elected majority leader and there are a lot of opportunities for us in Salem.”

    Williamson says she seriously considered running and had discussions with supporters about entering the race.

    “In the end, staying in Salem was the right choice.”

    Williamson’s quick turn as a potential mayoral candidate—speculation she may run hit the gossip mill only last week—is a response to Mayor Charlie Hales’ abrupt announcement on Monday, Oct. 26 that he would bow out of the 2016 election.

    In the days after Hales’ announcement, the names of other potential candidates have surfaced, including Multnomah County Chief Operating Officer Marissa Madrigal, whom Hales has nudged to run.

    Meanwhile, Oregon Treasurer Ted Wheeler, who announced Sept. 9 that he would seek the office, has raised more than $125,000.


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    State Legislators School Washington in How to Govern

    With the news of Speaker Boehner’s resignation and yet another barely-averted government shutdown, it’s like watching government as an extreme sport. As the Wednesday deadline to pass a budget came closer, we were once again watching to see if Congress would take action to move our country forward, or if a few extremists in Congress would succeed in blocking the budget and shutting down the government over an ideological fight about how women should receive health care services.

    As two outsiders to Washington, we thought we could offer some advice to Congress on how to get things done. We are legislators from Portland, Oregon and Jamestown, North Dakota, and let’s just say, we govern very differently out in the states. In both of our communities, we see firsthand working families who continue to struggle to make ends meet. We know that the politicians in Washington see the same families with the same struggles. Yet, while we have made these families our priority and are delivering for them, Washington has failed.

    For example, this year in Oregon, we had a historic legislative session where we addressed some of our residents’ most pressing economic needs. We passed free community college for qualifying students in order to give young people more opportunities to get ahead. We passed a program for workers to be able to earn sick leave so they don’t have to go without pay when they or a child falls ill. These are the kinds of policies that can keep a family afloat during a vulnerable time.

    And even while some in Congress continue looking for ways to restrict voting rights for certain communities, in Oregon we greatly expanded access with our New Motor Voter law, which automatically registers all eligible voters so we can deliver them a ballot.

    In North Dakota, workers talked to us about how environments today have not kept up with the changing needs of their families, which created an enormous economic burden. So, this year we passed a bill to protect pregnant women in the workplace, ensuring they won’t lose their job in order to start a family. The session before we took action to lower student loan debt to help ease the financial burden to young people by directing the state bank to allow North Dakota residents with student loan debt to refinance at a variable low rate of 1.79 percent. This has helped recent graduates tremendously, myself included, to pay off student loans earlier because of the incredibly low rate.

    We’re excited to share our successes and hear similar stories from the hundreds of our colleagues across the country this week at the State Innovation Exchange (SiX) legislator conference. We don’t have the staff and research support that members of Congress count on, so many of our best policy ideas and strategy come as we support one another and learn what has worked best in other states. Unfortunately, with the dysfunction in Washington at a critical point, that support is more necessary than ever.

    We hope that as we gather in Washington this week to discuss legislative victories and map out new policy proposals for next year, federal legislators here will take note. We urge them to recognize that when you work together and remember who we’re working for, we can actually get things done to better the lives of our constituents.

    Rep. Jennifer Williamson is the Majority Leader in the Oregon House of Representatives and Rep. Jessica Haak is a state representative from North Dakota.

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    Willamette Women Dems to meet

    The Willamette Women Democrats will welcome state Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland), state Rep. Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland) and state Rep. Kathleen Taylor (D-Portland) to talk about “Behind the Scenes: How Politics Shaped the 2015 Legislative Session,” during their meeting to be held from 4-6 p.m. Sept. 9 at Oswego Lake Country Club, 20 Iron Mountain Blvd. in Lake Oswego.

    During the 77th session Democrats held the majority in the State Senate and House but faced many challenges, starting with the resignation of Gov. John Kitzhaber, who was replaced by Secretary of State Kate Brown as Oregon’s new Democratic governor. Significant pieces of legislature, including tougher ethics laws, background checks on gun ownership and implementing the new marijuana initiative demanded legislative action. It was regarded as a “stressful session,” which resulted in gains as well as disappointments on several issues. Burdick, Williamson and Taylor will share their insights about the politics, priorities, accomplishments and what’s in store for the future.

    The public is invited to attend the event. The cost is $15 for members and $20 for non-members. Light refreshments will be served. Those wishing to attend should RSVP by Sept. 2 online at, email or call 503-656-4445.

    Willamette Women Democrats is a locally organized, nonprofit, progressive organization established to provide informative programs, promote progressive politics and encourage women to be politically active.

    Source: Lake Oswego Review

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    Democrats, Republicans draw lines in the legislative sand

    August 11,2015

    The election is more than a year away, but Democrats and Republicans already are setting the battle lines for which party will control the Oregon Legislature in 2017 and 2018.

    The campaign for both parties will focus on what voters think of the Legislature’s record this past session — and the majority party decides who will lead and which bills are priorities.

    Control of the House will boil down to a relative few of the 60 seats, and if recent history is a guide, they are in suburbs west, south and east of Portland.

    Control of the Senate is less likely to change because virtually all of the 15 seats up this cycle are in Portland-area districts solidly for Democrats or rural districts solidly for Republicans.

    But Republicans, the minority in both chambers, are buoyed by the recent announcement by the Republican State Leadership Committee that Oregon campaign efforts will get a share of the $40 million it has budgeted nationally to win or maintain control of state legislative chambers.

    “One-party rule has failed our state,” says House Republican Leader Mike McLane of Powell Butte. “It’s time to put Oregon back on a path toward prosperity by restoring the balance of power in our state government.”

    But Rep. Jennifer Williamson of Portland, the new Democratic majority leader in the House, says Democrats are happy to run next year on what they did this year — because it’s what they told voters last year they would do.

    “The important takeaway from what we did in Oregon started with that campaign,” she said in a national conference call with reporters about what she called “a grand-slam session.”

    “Our candidates were all on the same message. We were very disciplined. Working with our allies, no matter who voters were hearing from, they were hearing the same message about how we were going to improve the lives of everyday Oregonians.

    “Because we were so disciplined and worked together, we made these priorities, we campaigned on them — and they became law.”

    Among those priorities were automatic voter registration, a requirement for paid sick leave, a state-sponsored retirement savings plan, extension of a low-carbon fuel standard, and criminal background checks for most private transfers of firearms. None of these bills got Republican votes, and there were a few Democratic dissenters.

    Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli of John Day has a differing view:

    “Senate Republicans are ready to roll up our sleeves and get to work electing senators who will protect Oregon’s small businesses and working families from expensive Portland mandates that don’t reflect Oregon values.”

    Williamson and lawmakers from Connecticut, Nebraska and Nevada spoke in a call arranged by the State Innovation Exchange (SiX), a nonprofit that aims at being the liberal alternative to the American Legislative Exchange Council, which proposes model legislation from a conservative and free-market stance.

    Oregon was singled out in the report by the State Innovation Exchange for the array of bills passed during the 2015 session.

    Williamson said many of those bills got some or substantial GOP support.

    Republican push

    Legislative Republicans have their work cut out for them to win majorities outright.

    The Senate has 18 Democrats and 12 Republicans, a shift of two from 16-14 in 2011-14.

    The House has 35 Democrats and 25 Republicans, a shift of one from 2013-14 — and a shift of five from its historic 30-30 tie in 2011-12.

    The Democratic gains made Oregon the only state where Democrats added to their legislative majorities in 2014.

    Still, the Republican State Leadership Committee has included both Oregon houses among the 13 legislative chambers in 10 states that the GOP wants to win in 2016.

    It also will defend majorities in 16 chambers in 14 states.

    The GOP committee has spent $140 million in takeover efforts since the 2004 election, slightly more than twice what the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee has spent over the same period, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

    Democrats spend more

    But in Oregon in 2014, Democrats generally have spent more on legislative races, according to political action committee reports filed with the secretary of state.

    Future PAC, the House Democratic campaign committee, spent $3.1 million; Promote Oregon Leadership PAC, the House Republican committee, spent $1.6 million.

    Future PAC got $200,000 from the national Democratic committee, plus another $143,950 from its 527 Public Employee Treasury. Promote Oregon Leadership PAC got $85,000 from the national Republican committee.

    The spending was more even between the Senate committees in 2014. But the Senate Democratic Leadership Fund still outspent the (GOP) Leadership Fund in 2014, $1.77 million to $1.56 million. Of those totals, national Democrats contributed $135,875, all from their 527 committee; national Republicans, $160,000, about $75,000 of it from its 527 committee.

    The Republican committee also spent $15,000 separately for independent advertising against Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, who was re-elected.


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    Oregon lawmakers defend press freedoms in Turkey

    On Monday, the Oregon Legislature sent letters to national and international leaders, urging them to work together to end the mass arrest and detainment of journalists in Turkey.

    Pursuant to House Joint Memorial 16, which was approved by the Legislature earlier this year, letters were sent to President Obama, President Erdo?an of Turkey, Secretary of State John Kerry, the United States Ambassador to Turkey, the Turkish Ambassador to the United States, the Secretary General of NATO, the High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Senate Majority Leader McConnell, House Speaker Boehner, and Oregon’s Congressional delegation.

    “In the spirit of friendship, we ask the government of Turkey to halt obstructions to free speech and become recommitted to the values of a free and democratic society,” said Rep. Jim Weidner (R-Yamhill), a chief co-sponsor of HJM 16.

    “A stable and democratic Turkey, allied with the United States and NATO positively influences the stability of governments and promotes democracy in the Middle East.”

    The memorial was drafted in response to troubling new laws adopted by the Turkish government that have led to the arrests of newspaper journalists, television producers and script writers seen as reporting information critical of the government.

    Fellow chief co-sponsor Rep. Val Hoyle (D-Eugene) said of the measure, “Freedom of speech is the cornerstone of all democratic societies, we in Oregon support this most important of human rights.”

    Weidner emphasized the importance of individuals in the United States speaking out about human rights issues, saying, “During these times, it is imperative that Oregonians and Americans promote the virtues of free speech and advocate for an adherence to democratic principles around the world.”

    In addition to Reps. Weidner and Hoyle, HJM 16 was co-chief sponsored by House Majority Leader Jennifer Williamson (D-Portland). The Turkish community in Oregon has also played an active role in reaching out to their elected officials on the importance of this matter.

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    Portland Rep. Jennifer Williamson to be No. 2 House Democrat

    SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Democrats in the Oregon House of Representatives have elected a new majority leader.

    Lawmakers on Thursday selected Rep. Jennifer Williamson of Southwest Portland for the No. 2 position in the House after Speaker Tina Kotek, also a Portland Democrat.

    Williamson is a lawyer serving her second term in the Legislature.

    She replaces Rep. Val Hoyle of Eugene, who gave up the job while she explores a run for secretary of state.

    House Republicans this week re-elected Rep. Mike McLane of Powell Butte as the GOP leader.

    Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

    Source: KATU

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    Jennifer Williamson named Oregon House Majority Leader

    SALEM — House Democrats selected Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, as the chamber’s majority leader Thursday.

    Williamson, whose district includes portions of Southwest and Northwest Portland, replaces Rep. Val Hoyle, D-Eugene, who’s stepping down to explore a run for secretary of state.

    “In the 2015 session, we delivered on our promise to improve the lives of Oregon families and level the playing field for working people,” Williamson said in a statement. “But we still have a lot of work to do to meet the needs of those who continue to be left behind by the economic recovery.”

    The majority leader is considered the House’s second-highest ranking member — the speaker being the first — and is in charge of corralling votes for Democratic causes.

    Reps. Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Tobias Read, D-Beaverton, were selected House speaker and House speaker pro tem as the start of the 2015 session. Read announced his candidacy for state treasurer.

    Source: Oregon Live

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    The Good, the Bad and the Awful

    We have opened with the warning above since 1977, when we first published our Good, Bad & Awful survey—an unvarnished view of the metro-area legislators who help write Oregon’s laws and shape the state’s two-year budget, now at $19 billion.

    As of this writing, the end of the legislative session may still be weeks away and many hotly contested bills—most notably a proposed gas tax increase—hang in the balance. Yet it’s not too early to offer up a report card on the Legislature, one of the few in the nation that saw Democrats increase their numbers in 2014.

    Among Democrats’ early-session victories: a voter registration bill that could add 300,000 new voters, and a law that will align Oregon with other states in retaining unclaimed class action lawsuit proceeds. The successes also include environmentalists’ top priority, an extension of the low-carbon fuel standard.

    Of course, 2015 was a historic legislative session because former Gov. John Kitzhaber resigned abruptly Feb. 18.

    After his replacement, Gov. Kate Brown, took over, Democrats finally passed a gun-control bill they’ve wanted for years and proceeded toward the implementation of legal marijuana, a process still taking shape as the July 1 date for legalization looms.

    In the wake of the Kitzhaber resignation, Brown and lawmakers made lots of noise about ethics reforms but little progress. And Brown is now working to repeal the low-carbon fuel standard she recently signed into law, in exchange for a transportation funding package that includes increased gas taxes and motor vehicle fees.

    Some lawmakers are gliding through the 2015 session like jewel thieves, leaving barely a fingerprint on this state; others are workhorses, worth multiples of the $22,260 annual salary (not counting per diem payments) legislators pull down. 

    So how have your lawmakers fared amid the blizzard of bills and avalanche of advocacy?

    We surveyed Capitol lobbyists, staffers and journalists, asking them to numerically rate legislators on a scale of zero to 10 in the categories of integrity, brains and effectiveness. We  received 34 responses from across the political spectrum, and a legislator’s overall rating is an average of those replies.

    As always, we grant respondents anonymity. Historically, some lawmakers and readers hate that practice, claiming respondents engage in score-settling or partisan attacks, and that the survey is anything but scientific.

    We acknowledge the survey is unscientific. But the ideological range of respondents makes skewing the numbers difficult, even in the face of tactics such as the Senate Democrats’ plan to stuff the ballot box this year. (They didn’t end up doing so.)

    Readers also say the ratings simply reflect WW’s own views. Except we don’t get a say. It’s true our election endorsements often praise the legislators who end up at the top of the survey. But the survey also beats up on legislators we have praised. Rep. Julie Parrish (R-West Linn), for example, usually ends up at or near the bottom of the ratings. (She just missed being rated “awful” this year.) Democrats knock Parrish because she’s a Republican, and Republicans dislike her because she’s pro-choice, pro-gay marriage and self-promotional. We think her independence makes her a fine legislator.

    Despite these caveats, the Good Bad & Awful issue for nearly 40 years has provided one of the best assessments of how your legislators perform in Salem.

    One finding in this year’s survey is stark: The House overall looks more effective in the eyes of the survey respondents, while the Senate is increasingly ossified and adrift. On average, the scores for the Senate are well below those of the House—the first time in memory that’s happened. And all the legislators rated “awful” are in the Senate.


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    Minimum-wage hike would help workers and businesses (OPINION)

    By Rep. Jessica Vega Pederson and Rep. Jennifer Williamson

    For working families on the lowest rungs of the pay ladder in Oregon, the discussion in Salem about raising our minimum wage isn’t just a policy debate — it’s about economic survival and putting food on the table for their families.

    That’s why it’s important to look at key facts that have emerged about how an increase will benefit many low-wage workers we represent while giving an important boost to our state’s economy:

    First, our current minimum wage of $9.25 per hour ($19,240 a year for a full-time worker) isn’t enough to get by on, let alone to get ahead, support a family, send a child to college and save for the future.

    We hear the stories all the time from women in our communities who are living in poverty despite the fact that they work full-time.  In 2013, women made up 60 percent of minimum wage workers in the state. In Oregon, 54 percent of single mothers are earning less than $25,000 in annual income – meaning they are struggling just to provide the basics for their children.

    A higher minimum wage will put needed money in the pockets of our lowest-wage workers, giving them, and their children, the opportunity to get ahead. That financial freedom will reduce the state’s safety net costs as more people move to self-sufficiency. It’s a win-win.

    Second, a higher minimum wage is one of the best things we can do to strengthen the Oregon economy. America’s wealthiest corporations and their highly paid  lobbyists may not want the facts to get out, but it doesn’t change the economic reality for our communities and neighborhoods.

    When low-wage earners have more money in their pockets, they spend it on necessities at other local businesses, which, in turn, helps those businesses succeed. In fact, our neighborhood businesses from Hazelwood to downtown depend on people having enough money in their pockets to spend at local establishments like the dentist, the grocery store, the bakery down the street or the corner coffee shop.

    Recent research plainly shows that increasing the minimum wage does not result in job loss or reductions in hours in low-wage industries (sectors like retail, health care services and business administration where our economy is seeing a lot of its growth). In fact, when workers are paid more, these businesses benefit from cost savings associated with reduced turnover, less absenteeism and improved performance.

    The truth is: When women and working families can’t afford the basics, our economy stalls. Raising Oregon’s minimum wage is the right thing to do for the hard-working parents we represent who are struggling to make ends meet, for their children, their local neighborhoods and businesses who depend on them and our state’s economy as a whole.

    Raising Oregon’s minimum wage will help raise up the working families we represent and secure a better economic future for our entire state.

    Democrats Jessica Vega Pederson and Jennifer Williamson represent Districts 47 and 36, respectively, in the Oregon House of Representatives.

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    Oregon passes expanded background checks on gun sales

    An Oregon bill expanding background checks to encompass nearly all gun sales in the state made it through the Legislature Monday, overcoming obstacles that stymied two previous attempts to pass similar laws.

    The measure now heads to Democratic Gov. Kate Brown, who has indicated support. Her signature would make Oregon the eighth state to require screening before firearms could be transferred between private, unrelated owners. No other states have passed such legislation this year, advocates said.

    Supporters have tried twice before to expand background checks, saying it closes a loophole that allowed people to purchase firearms online without a review. Neither attempt made it past a Senate vote, but Democrats managed to increase their majorities in both chambers after last year’s election, partially because key candidates in the Senate were backed by billionaire Michael Bloomberg’s gun control group, Everytown for Gun Safety.

    Once the measure takes effect, private sales would need to happen in front of a licensed gun dealer who would run the check through the Oregon State Police.


    There is an exception for gun sellers and buyers who live more than 40 miles from each other. In that case, the seller could send the firearm to a dealer near the buyer, who would then run the check and hand over the gun to the buyer if they’re cleared.

    The bill has borne intense opposition from gun rights supporters, and every legislative Republican has voted against it. Many cited law enforcement officials in their districts who said they wouldn’t enforce the law or that it would be difficult, if not impossible, to enforce.

    Senate Bill 941, worse than doing nothing, gives false hope, because it represents to people that felons are not going to get guns. And colleagues, I think we all know that’s not true. They are going to get them one way or another,” House Republican Leader Mike McLane said.

     Others argued the bill would trample Second Amendment rights or would make criminals of gun owners who choose not to get a background check every time they hand over a gun to a friend or neighbor.

    The seller of a gun would face a misdemeanor for a first offense, punishable by up to a year in jail and a $6,250 fine. A second offense would be a felony, with a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

    Under current state law, anyone purchasing a gun from a licensed dealer has to pass a background check to ensure the buyer isn’t prohibited from owning a gun because of convictions for felonies or violent behavior. Oregon goes further than federal law by also requiring background checks at gun shows under an initiative voters approved in 2000.

    “This bill is not about stopping all gun violence in Oregon, and it’s not about taking guns of the hands of law abiding citizens,” Rep. Jennifer Williamson, a Portland Democrat, said. “It’s about keeping guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, those suffering from mental health crises, and convicted felons.”