Legislators predict the year's top stories in politics

Article author: 
Anna Staver
Article publisher: 
Statesman Journal
Article date: 
Wednesday, January 1, 2014
Article category: 
Oregon Issues
Article Body: 

What will be the biggest political story in Oregon in 2014? Lawmakers and political candidates share their predictions.

Rep. Vicki Berger, R-Salem: Marijuana legalization is Berger’s prediction for the biggest political story in 2014. Supporters of legalizing recreational usage of the drug have been gathering signatures to put the idea to voters in November, and Sen. Floyd Prozanski, D-Eugene, announced plans to pass a referral on legalization during the 2014 Legislative session.

“I think it’s coming at us like a freight train,” Berger said. “I don’t think that the Legislature is adequately preparing for that.”

Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem: Oregon has managed to avoid “polarizing fights that plague other states,” but Courtney thinks that will come to an end in 2014. The Salem Democrat worried that a series of ballot initiatives on divisive social issues such as same-sex marriage, right to work and driver ID cards for undocumented immigrants would bring in a tidal wave of out-of-state donors and caustic rhetoric.

“You will have a battle of ballot measures like you have never had before, and it will tear the state up,” Courtney said. “It will bring a political war the likes of which we have never seen before in Oregon.”

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, R-Hood River: Oregon’s timber counties have struggled to pay their bills for two decades since federal protections curtailed 90 percent of logging on federal forest lands, but Walden thinks 2014 could be the year the government eases those restrictions.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed a bill to increase logging on about 2 million acres of federal forests in Western Oregon in September, and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden has proposed a similar bill in the Senate.

“Our plan would provide the certainty that Oregon’s forested communities are demanding by creating jobs in the woods, improving forest health and providing revenue for essential local services like schools and law enforcement,” Walden said. “I predict that final passage of a historic forestry plan will be the biggest story of 2014 because we must help Oregonians who live in rural communities.”

Environmental opponents argue increased logging would hurt fish and wildlife while damaging the state’s growing outdoor recreation industry.

Rep. Dennis Richardson, R-Central Point: The Republican gubernatorial candidate predicted that he and his political party hopefuls would beat the Democrats in enough races to take back control of the Oregon Legislature and the governor’s mansion.

“It’s going to change the political course of Oregon back towards the middle,” Richardson said.

Democrats currently hold 16 of the state’s 30 Senate seats and 34 of the 60 House seats.

U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Springfield: “In a matter of months, the Highway Trust Fund will essentially run dry, meaning there will be no new spending to fix our nation’s crumbling infrastructure,” DeFazio said. “Without a fix, the state of Oregon alone will lose half a billion dollars in 2015, resulting in thousands of lost jobs. This issue affects anyone who uses a road to drive, ride, bike or walk but it’s going to be tough to get Republicans to agree to funding.”

House of Representatives candidate Bill Post: The Republican talk show host who is running for Rep. Kim Thatcher’s seat this year thinks the Affordable Care Act and Cover Oregon will continue as the biggest stories of 2014.

“Both will continue to be plagued by technical glitches and the price tag that those who do sign on will be shocked by,” Post said. “This story will be the one that continues from the primary in May through the General in November. It will hurt anyone attached to it.”

House Minority Leader Mike McLane, R-Powell Butte: The ranking House Republican predicted his party would make gains in the 2014 elections, and Cover Oregon would continue to be plagued by delays.

McLane added one more prediction for Rep. Carolyn Tomei, D-Milwaukie, who made headlines in 2013 when she substituted the word “love” for God in the Pledge of Allegiance. “Rep. Tomei won’t say the Pledge of Allegiance with an open mic,” McLane said.