This morning I went to the monthly meeting of the Woodburn Democrats group, getting both a free breakfast and the ability to take part in some interesting progressive talk.
I'd been asked to say a few words about the Kitzhaber/Hayes scandal that led to our Governor's resignation, then lead a discussion. (Not that I, or hardly anybody else, is capable of leading Dems, well known for their like herding cats proclivity.)
Representative Betty Komp started off the meeting with some remarks about how the 2015 Oregon legislative session is going.
During the question and comment time, I told her that I was pleased with how the Democratic majority in both the House and Senate is pushing through important bills early on in the session, such as the low carbon fuel standard bill and the "Motor Voter" registration bill.
A bit naively, in retrospect, I said something like:
It'll be great to have the low carbon fuel bill passed before the legislature tackles the big transportation bill. I've heard that Republicans want to hold the low carbon bill hostage in order to get their votes on the transportation bill. But if the low carbon fuel bill is already passed, this will take away the potential of it being horse-traded away during the usual end-of-session negotiating.
If I'd read today's newspaper before going to the meeting, I might not have said what I did. Because when I got home, I saw this in a story about our new governor, Kate Brown.
Bills that come to her desk for signing will be treated the same way, Brown said. The only one she would commit Friday to signing is the "Motor Voter" bill that she championed early during the legislative session.
She said she supports the concept behind the low-carbon fuel standard bill that has generated controversy this year, but she did not say whether she would sign it into law.
l'm not sure what "treated the same way" refers to. It might be a reference earlier in the story to Brown deciding whether to keep Kitzhaber's staff members on a case-by-case basis.
Now, maybe it doesn't mean much -- Brown saying she hasn't decided whether to sign into law the low carbon fuel standard that's much beloved by Oregon environmentalists. But it might, as this would fit into the Horse Trading Hypothesis that I'd hoped was off the table.
Fitting into all this is an interesting post on Blue Oregon by Ronald Buel, "More highways! Fight climate change! (Wait a sec...)"
He points out the disconnect between Dems in the state legislature (1) backing an effort to fight global warming through the low carbon fuel standard, and (2) pushing a transportation bill that likely would include money for new roads, freeways, bridges, and other autocentric stuff.
It’s an article of Democratic Party faith in Oregon that climate change and global warming threatens our planet with devastation within this century.
This prevailing Democratic view follows the science that the human burning of fossil fuels is causing climate change and global warming, and that somewhere around one-third of this problem is coming from motor vehicles that burn fossil fuel in internal combustion engines on our highways.
It’s also an article of Democratic Party faith in Oregon that our highway infrastructure needs to be built out at breakneck speed in order to deal with growing congestion on the state’s highways, so that our economy can thrive.
The annual Oregon Business Summit, held earlier this year, attended by thousands of businessmen, and capturing our leading politicians of both parties to speak there, recently proclaimed this congestion as the state’s number one issue.
The Democratic Party in Oregon seems led by the nose by unions who also love that argument, including particularly the building trades and the AFL-CIO, who are dying for these local union highway construction jobs that used to be so numerous but have virtually disappeared as people drive less and drive vehicles that use less gas per mile.
No one in the Democratic Party is trying to publicly reconcile these two inconveniently opposing points of view.
In fact, politicians of all stripes in Oregon would prefer that there be no public reconciliation. If there were reconciliation, the politicians would all be negligent by not acting to prevent the devastation to the planet that will eventually be caused by man-made climate change.
That means rejecting the false arguments of the business and labor lobbies that we must somehow build our way out of job-stifling congestion with many large highway expansion projects.
Nicely said, Mr. Buel.
At the Woodburn Democrats meeting I said that if the low carbon fuel standard bill is a fait accompli by the time the transportation bill is voted on, Republicans will be faced with a choice:
Either sign on to the transportation bill (which almost certainly will require raising the state gas tax) or give up on getting some infrastructure projects for the rural parts of the state that they care about most.
I'm enough of a political realist to recognize that some new highway projects will need to be part of the transportation bill.
But these should be a lesser priority than maintaining the roads and bridges we already have, many of which are falling apart and/or are not earthquake-proof. Further, mass transit, bicycle lanes, and other forms of non-vehicular transportation should get a good share of the money in a 2015 transportation bill.
So says 1000 Friends of Oregon, a group that knows what's best for this state.
1000 Friends is advocating for a transportation funding package that prioritizes safety, maintenance over new roads and highways, and adequately funds transit, pedestrian and bicycle improvements. These investments promote active transportation and decrease emissions, which in turn minimize the detrimental health impacts of single occupancy vehicle use and promote efficient land use patterns. Not budgeting for highway expansions would relieve future additional taxpayer maintenance burdens.
It'd be crazy for the state legislature to cancel out the environmental and economic benefit of a low carbon fuel standard bill by passing a transportation bill that fails to recognize the urgent necessity of moving away from outmoded "build more roads" thinking.