A winter rainbow graces Portland. (Lynne Terry/Oregon Capital Chronicle)
One of the biggest political stories of the year came to a head this week, as both a federal court and the state Supreme Court took up arguments in separate cases over the election prospects of several Republican senators. Oregonians overwhelmingly voted last year to punish lawmakers who participate in quorum-denying walkouts by making them ineligible to run for reelection, and 10 Republican senators promptly tested that new law with the longest walkout in state history.
Ben Botkin covered the state Supreme Court hearing on Thursday, where justices queried attorneys representing the state and four of the affected senators about their interpretation of 13 words in the voter-approved Measure 113. The senators maintain they’re ineligible for the term after their next term, while the state’s attorneys say justices should look at what voters intended.
“It’s clunky,” state attorney Dustin Buehler allowed. “It’s inelegant. But it’s also a voter-approved initiative.”
Separately, a federal judge slapped down a request from three senators for a preliminary injunction allowing them to run. Republican Sens. Brian Boquist, Dennis Linthicum and Cedric Hayden argue that they have a constitutional right to protest by walking out, but U.S. District Court Judge Ann Aiken wasn’t buying it.
It was also a big week for infrastructure and environmental news in Oregon and Washington, capped by a late Friday announcement that the Interstate Bridge Replacement Program will get $600 million from the federal government. It’s the first of several grants sought by lawmakers in the two states.
The Biden administration also announced a deal with Oregon, Washington and four tribal governments to pause legal fights over salmon runs and promised more federal funding, while moving toward removing four dams on the Snake River.
But the region was largely skipped when it came to doling out $8 billion in grants to improve passenger rail service. No bullet trains are coming to the I-5 corridor any time soon, and rail advocates are urging more investments to expand the paltry Amtrak offerings.
In news from the other Washington, Sen. Ron Wyden tells Alex Baumhardt he’ll block the nomination of a new National Security Agency director until the agency discloses whether it’s spying on everyday Americans’ electronic data.