In a few short weeks, Oregon's Legislature will convene for about a month, in what is known as a "short session."
Since statehood, Oregon's legislative assembly met in multi-month sessions every odd-numbered year. Those sessions were the period of time in which our elected state representatives and state senators met to consider, debate, pass, and enact legislation deemed to be in the broader and long-term interest of the people.
After the session ended ("sine die" -- or without a definite date for resumption), our "citizen legislators" returned to their communities, families, and jobs. The period between adjournment sine die and the date the next legislature convened was called "the interim." During the interim, hearings were held, work groups met, budgets and fiscal conditions were reviewed, and the budget was re-balanced. Everyone -- legislators, the Governor, special interests, and regular citizens -- had time to pause, reflect, work together, improve proposals, or prepare new ones, and then the process started all over again in January of the next odd-numbered year.
If conditions warranted (economic crisis, natural disaster, etc.), the Governor could call the Legislature back into a "special session," or the Legislature could call itself into special session, and this could happen at any time.
All this changed on November 2, 2010 by a 68%-32% vote of the people when they adopted Measure 71, also known as the Oregon Legislature Annual Sessions Amendment (an amendment to the Oregon Constitution). This measure, which was referred to the voters in 2009 by the Legislature, changed the political and legislative landscape of the state.
With the passage of Measure 71, Oregon joined many other states by adopting what is effectively an annual (v. biannual) legislative cycle. Odd-numbered years were intended to be "full" sessions, and were set to last for 160 days. Even-numbered years were intended to be "short" sessions, and were limited to 35 days.
While the Measure 71 obviously enjoyed strong public support, many (myself included) were supportive only if short sessions were limited to budget review and rebalancing, and truly emergency measures.
That is not what has happened.
If a long session is more like a marathon, today legislators and special interests treat short sessions as (in the words of the inimitable Monty Python) a "100 yard dash for people with no sense of direction." There are almost no limits on proposals that are considered, While in a long legislative session up to 3,000 or so pieces of legislation are introduced, usually in a short session each legislator is limited to one or two bills. This limit often does not apply to the legislative leadership or some key legislators.
Despite the numerical limit on bills, there are virtually no limits on the movement of bills. In a calmer climate, that would be tolerable, because legislators would work together to advance bills that enjoyed a consensus, and would limit bills that were controversial, or did not enjoy a clear majority of support from both parties.
Today, the standard for passing a bill in a short session is whether a majority of the ruling party has the votes to pass it. And there are no limits on subject matter. Anything -- whether it is bad policy or not -- can advance if the ruling party wants to pass it.
In tonight's third "warm up" podcast for Talking Leaders gives my perspective on this question and discusses why we need to make "short" sessions truly short. I hope you'll take a few minutes to listen to Talking Leaders, Intro 3
As always, if you have comments, criticisms, feedback, or have questions, please click on # Comments in the upper right section of this blog.
Earlier this evening, I talked with my oldest son Mattie about the podcast. He wasn't a fan of my original name for the program ("Oregon Conversations"). Mattie thinks with the mind of a 30-year old, and he gets marketing -- which I don't.
After we talked a bit, he listened to the first episode and gave me some very useful feedback. As a result, the name is now changed to "Talking Leaders." I like that because it's both a verb and an adjective, and it summarizes in two words the overall point of the podcast.
I'm running with it for now. Mattie also thinks I should consider intro and outro music, but I need to make sure I can do basic recording first -- I'll try the fancier stuff later.
So after our talk, I recorded Episode 2 of "Talking Leaders." In this short episode, I give some background about the name change, and offer some additional thoughts about where I want to take the podcast. Feel free to click comment and let me know your thoughts.
Thanks Bud -- feedback is a gift and you gave me some good ones tonight.
Plus -- I'm already up to three listeners. As the late, great Mel Allen used to say, "How 'bout that?"
Happy New Year, everyone!
A little behind schedule (okay, about eight months behind...), I've stepped into the world of podcasting.
I started podcasting back in March with some fun discussions with my grandson Hayden Boyd. We mostly talk about sports. Turns out Hayden is quite the social media and multi-media guy, with an Instagram account and a YouTube channel at the ripe old age of 13.
But I always had something else in mind, and it's time to get going on it. Now I've started a more serious effort -- Talking Leaders.
Talking Leaders is intended to be just that: a series of discussions with leaders, emerging leaders, and everyday citizens from Oregon, the Pacific Northwest, and around the country. One of my most-listened to podcasts is The Axe Files with David Axlerod. I want to pattern my work on his work.
I like David's interview approach: thoughtful, done his homework, interesting, informative, and, yes...conversational. Although he is a strong partisan, his interviews aren't. David invites guests from across the political and philosophical spectrum. I always learn something new from his interviews, and always gain new insights about the people he's talking to. In the end, these podcasts have helped to reopen my mind, and I hope I can help others do that too.
So I want to try a similar thing and see where it goes.
I'm still very busy professionally (am writing this on a lunch break today), so I can't commit to a regular schedule for these podcasts for now. My goal is to produce one about every 7-10 days, but that could slip. Initially, the podcasts will likely be individual commentaries. We'll move to conversations when I'm better at working with my new technology and get some wrinkles ironed out (i.e., how to set up to record calls and Skype interviews).
I'm going to start by keeping it simple, so you won't hear theme music, see fancy graphics, or anything like that -- at least at first. That said, this is an experiment, so I may try some new things. It won't be highly polished or professionally produced, but I'm going to give it a go and see what folks say.
Finally, don't be fooled by the short introductory podcast for Episode 1. My intention is to make these interviews meaningful -- which means I'll be looking to make them 30-60 minutes in length. If they aren't interesting, maybe they will become good sleep aids!
In the meantime, I hope you'll take a few minutes to listen and tell me what you think. Just click on the comments link (there will be a number next to it -- probably zero for awhile...) and comment away. Tell me what you like, what could be done better, and let me know if you have suggestions of people to interview.
The only request I have of you is to keep it civil.
In the meantime, thanks for listening to Talking Leaders.
Kinda cool -- using Facebook gets the word out that I have a blog now.
I value comments -- please keep 'em constructive and positive if you can, but disagree if you disagree -- that's what makes it fun and we can all learn from each other.
To comment, click on the "0 (or whatever number) Comments" on the upper right part of the blog screen and it will take you to a comment form.
Thanks for reading.
At 11:53PM (PT)
Just when you think it can't get any stranger, it does.
Today, Donald Trump, President of the United States, accused former President Barack Obama of wiretapping his campaign offices in Trump Tower in New York City during the 2016 election.
That is one hell of an accusation for a sitting president to level at a former president.
Unfortunately, the accusation was not accompanied by facts, by additional information, or even a shred of evidence.
I said I was going to wait until the first 100 days were behind us to comment on this president and his administration.
But I've decided I don't want to wait.
One thing I will say about Trump is that he has no problem stirring up drama on the world's largest stage. Sometimes, what he throws out to the world actually has some weight behind it. Because of that, I'm going to wait for the evidence, for the facts and see if what he says has some legitimacy behind it.
But while waiting, my mind goes back to the basics of how Trump operates.
Character. Integrity. Behavior. Words.
They all matter -- at least to me. They don't seem to matter to Donald Trump.
I hoped he would grow in and into the role. Every now and then, you think he shows that he is growing. Then he regresses. Badly.
A president's words matter. It's one thing to say what he says in privacy, to trusted aides, to his family, or to his diary. It's not acceptable to launch those kind of accusations into the public sphere. At least accusations like that shouldn't be expressed without even a scintilla of evidence to back them up.
But once again -- like a sixth grader "nah-nah-nah'ing" a classmate -- Trump has done just that.
I've tried to stay quiet about Trump, mostly because I decided over a year ago that my thinking and behavior were light years from what he represents. But I didn't want the behavior I saw in the 2016 campaign unnecessarily color what I thought of Trump as president.
Since the election, I've even adopted my own phrase when evaluating him and his administration: "Focus on the what, not the who." I want to be as objective and fair in my evaluation as possible.
Unfortunately -- so far, at least -- I've found that motto is just not working for me.
So I'm going to use this blog to open up and speak my mind. I did it with President Obama, and I'm going to do it now.
Because of my professional role, this may be a threat to my livelihood. I have seen people threatened with, or actually lose, their job because of their political or philosophical views. Because of the intensity of views on all sides of the political spectrum, these are dangerous times to exercise one's First Amendment rights. And when I say "dangerous," I'm not just talking professionally dangerous or threatening. Here we are in 2017, and there are people who value life so little they will harm or murder someone just because of what they say or because of the views they express.
But I'm going to speak out.
This tweet -- this accusation -- one that has no visible evidence to support it -- by a sitting president leveled against a former president is dangerous and destructive in so many ways. It further weakens public confidence in our system of government and our politics. It legitimizes coarse comments and groundless, indefensible accusations in an office where thoughtfulness, some sense of decorum, and actual facts should guide us. It cheapens the office of the presidency and its occupant. And it does nothing at all to shrink the gaping political and philosophical chasm that divides us.
Those who know me even superficially know I was never an Obama supporter. From a policy perspective, I probably opposed 85% of what he supported and advocated. But as the years went by, I came to the conclusion that while I disagreed with him vehemently, President Obama was a good man and probably someone with whom I would enjoy having a drink and a good conversation. And while I felt he was arrogant (especially in the first term), he generally carried himself in the office with class and dignity.
As a thinking person, I believe I can see the good in a person and still disagree with them.
I do not feel that way about Donald Trump. Simply by behavior alone, and by years of demonstrated actions and words, he represents everything in a person I find repulsive. As the 2016 campaign drug on, I found that I simply could not support his candidacy. I did not vote for him. But I was willing to set those concerns aside and give him a chance to show he had a sense of how to be a president and to see what he could do in the office. I told myself (and others) I would not comment on him publicly for the first 100 days.
But after this latest reprehensible outburst -- which is not even the worst of his outbursts -- I have decided I won't stay silent anymore.
I'm not a tin-foil-hat conspiracist. I don't normally see evil things behind every blade of grass. But I have to say the questions being raised about the other story -- this seemingly bizarre "relationship" or ties between Trump and the Russians -- gives me pause. As Senator Ron Wyden recently said, "What in the world is going on here?"
Because those questions are at minimum worth some serious response, I have to wonder if these tweet blasts at 2:00 in the morning are nothing more than efforts to misdirect the Congress and the American people from what could be much more serious things. I guess we will see.
In the meantime, my faith and my values tell me no one is beyond redemption. I continue to hope President Trump will find "the better angels of his nature" and rise -- both as a person and as a president.
And I hope we get some real answers to all of these matters soon.
Mike Salsgiver, 62, is a space enthusiast, tech geek, and is active in federal, state, and local government and political circles. He has been married for 35 years to the former Brenda Hogan. They have four children, three grand-children, and one huge dog named Sam. The Salsgivers live in Portland, OR and enjoy RV traveling.