It’s springtime in Salem. That means legislators are madly trying to push their bills out of committee and onto the House and Senate floors in time to pass them before the end of the session in June. Most bills that haven’t been scheduled for a work session are considered dead. One idea that’s still alive and kicking is a House joint resolution that would change the language of the iconic freedom of expression clause in the Oregon Constitution (see Article 1, Section 8). Similar Senate proposals appear to be stalled, but HJR 35 will have a hearing this Friday. The proposed resolution would replace Oregon’s freedom of expression clause with language based on the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. One of the bill’s most vocal proponents is Sen. Mark Hass (D-Beaverton), who says the change is necessary to allow cities to restrict adult businesses through zoning laws. The ACLU of Oregon opposes attempts to change Oregon’s freedom of expression provision, pointing out that similar efforts to regulate zoning laws have not passed muster with voters in the past.
State Treasurer Ted Wheeler has been in the headlines lately. Reporters at The Oregonian have raised questions about Wheeler’s defense of state investment officers involved in an ethics investigation. (The treasury itself is not being investigated.) These investment officers make key decisions about the way the state invests public pension money and the Ethics Commission is examining the perks they enjoy from investment firms.
Our Capital People feature continues to introduce you to interesting people who work in the Capitol building but are not elected officials. This week, it’s Bruce Parsons, whose title — mail clerk — may be misleading. It sounds like he works in the mail room, which he does. But he is, in fact, the only employee in the Capitol mail room. He collects, delivers and sorts ALL of the mail that comes through the building, whether it’s from the US postal service, UPS, FedEx or internal mail. He’s held this job since he was 22 years old. He’s now 55. He says he’s gotten to know a lot of people in the building, including his friend John, who worked his way up through the political ranks, all the way to the governor’s office.
What would you like to ask Bruce Parsons? How would you — or your neighborhood — be affected by proposed changes to the Oregon constitution? Do you have money in the public employee retirement system? Are you concerned about the ethics investigation into the state’s treasury investment officers?
- Ted Wheeler: Oregon State Treasurer
- Mark Hass: Oregon State Senator (D-Beaverton)
- Andrea Meyer: Legislative director for the ACLU of Oregon
- Bruce Parsons: Mail clerk