Oregon Views: Merkley shows lost art of legislating

2013-11-20T08:25:00Z Oregon Views: Merkley shows lost art of legislating Coos Bay World
November 20, 2013 8:25 am

As speaker of the Oregon House of Representatives, Jeff Merkley was known as “the Boy Scout.” His attention to detail in counting votes and rounding them up earned him that nickname.

Merkley’s ability to do the hard, old-fashioned business of legislating showed last week when the Senate enacted legislation to ban workplace discrimination against gays. The margin of victory was 64-32, meaning that Merkley gained significant Republican support.

Merkley’s predecessor, former Sen. Gordon Smith, had something to do with one prominent Republican’s “yes” vote. The New York Times reported Friday that Smith personally approached Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch. Smith took on that challenge at the invitation of Sen. Merkley. It was a bold move for Merkley to make that request of the man he defeated in 2008, and it was generous of Gordon Smith to plead a case in front of the Utah Republican.

Unfortunately, House Speaker John Boehner has no plans to bring the Senate bill to the House floor for a vote.

Merkley came to the task of managing the anti-discrimination bill at the request of the late Sen. Edward Kennedy. This was one of Kennedy’s causes. As a dying man, the Massachusetts senator was concerned about his unfinished business.

Legislating seems like a lost art in Congress. Members are better at posturing for television than they are at counting votes and building coalitions. Speaker Boehner continues to take the easy way out. There is little effort involved in saying no.

The Daily Astorian

Cyclists ought to contribute something to road maintenance

It’s clear that when it comes to such things as roadbed damage, a bicyclist’s impact is minimal, at best. In fact, says the Bicycle Transportation Alliance, studies, including one from the University of California at Berkeley, show it would take something like 9,600 bikers to do the damage inflicted by a single car.

Moreover, BTA argues in an article in The Oregonian, bikers actually pay more than their fair share for road damage. That assumes, however, that BTA’s estimate that 89 percent of them also own cars and pay fees and gas taxes as a result is accurate. The Oregon Department of Transportation argues that even if the figure is correct, the statement misses the point. The state constitution requires that gas taxes go to highway maintenance.

No one expects bikers to pick up the full cost of such things nor should they. Society doesn’t work like that — we all chip in with taxes to pay for what our communities need.

That’s why a bill that died in the 2013 Legislature is worth another look. Sponsored by Sen. Larry George, R-Sherwood, it would have imposed a $10 registration fee on new bikes for a new Bicycle Transportation Improvement Fund to be managed by the state.

George’s bill may not have been perfect. The bill does offer a jumping off point, however, for a discussion well worth having.

The (Bend) Bulletin

When Obama hits comedy circuit, Obamacare is really in trouble

Here’s how you’ll know when the Affordable Care Act really is in trouble: When President Barack Obama shows up on “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” to defend it.

It’s not as far-fetched a prospect as you would think. Obama himself has appeared on “The Daily Show,” the nightly satirical take on the news. Last month, Kathleen Sebelius, the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services and thus the cabinet official on the front lines of the bungled rollout of the Affordable Care Act, appeared on the show — and wilted under questioning from Stewart.

Here’s why this is a big problem for Obama: For better or for worse, “The Daily Show” and its cousin, “The Colbert Report,” are critical sources of national and world news for younger Americans.

And it’s younger Americans who are key components of making the Affordable Care Act work.

But when what those young Americans are seeing on “The Daily Show” is Stewart constantly riffing about the botched rollout of the federal website where people — at least in theory — can sign up for coverage, it almost certainly leaves them with the impression that they have better things they can do with their time. Such as sending friends more of those Snapchat selfies.

The problem is, Stewart and his comedic cohorts aren’t going to wait to fire up some additional roasting of the eventual full rollout. And one of the key demographics here likely won’t have a lot of patience waiting for the health exchanges to be functional.

Corvallis Gazette-Times

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