Representatively Speaking February 2022

By State Representative Rob Nosse

By the time you read this I will be in the midst of another legislative session. Last month I wrote about the bills I was working on and next month I’ll provide an update about how the session played out. I won’t try to predict the future of how this session will unfold. 

I learned not to do that the hard way when I tried to predict the 2020 short session when Republicans walked out and none of my predictions came true. Fingers crossed that won’t happen this time. 

The legislature is made up of a lot of personalities and understanding them is critical to being successful in politics.  Two really important ones are moving on. One is retiring and one is trying to become our Governor.  

In mid-January, Peter Courtney, the longest serving Democratic Legislator and longest serving Senate President, announced he is not running again. 

Also in mid-January, Tina Kotek, the longest serving Democratic Speaker of the House announced that she is stepping down to focus on her campaign to become Governor. 

These two leaders have shaped our state in so many important ways with both their political values and personalities. 

Peter Courtney’s electoral slogan when he first ran was “Nobody Works Harder” and I think that is pretty true. He is well known as a colorful orator. 

In the 1990s, he served as House Minority leader when Republicans were in charge of the legislature. 

I can still recount most of the details of the first meeting I ever had with him and his staff when I was a young lobbyist/activist for the Oregon Student Association back in 1993. He encouraged me to “sleep with both eyes open.”  

Throughout his career, Peter devoted a lot of time and energy to behavioral health issues including reconstructing the Oregon State Hospital in Salem, which (fun fact) was where One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest  was filmed. 

Under his watch, we went from having one of the worst state hospitals in the country to one (albeit still with challenges) to one that is considered state of the art. 

He became Senate President in 2003 when that chamber was tied 15 Democrats and 15 Republicans. He has a long list of accomplishments made while serving in that role. 

He won passage in a 2013 special session for a cigarette tax increase to boost mental health treatment. We probably could not have gotten the largest tax increase ever adopted in the legislature for schools passed without his leadership during the 2019 session. 

As you may know, I spent a lot of time and energy working to improve our state’s behavioral healthcare system in the 2021 session. I will miss his leadership in this area. I don’t think I would have been as successful in my efforts without his leadership. 

It is well known that Senator Courtney doesn’t like receiving compliments, but he really was an incredible Senate president and politician. He was also a smart, funny and supportive colleague who cared a great deal about the processes and the legislature as an institution. I am one of many who will miss working with him. 

Speaker Kotek’s announcement that she is stepping down came a little less out of the blue as many of you knew she is running for Governor. 

Tina joined the legislature in 2007 under the speakership of then state representative Jeff Merkley. It was the first time in almost two decades where Democrats had a majority in both chambers and could run the legislature. She became the speaker in 2013 – the first lesbian in the US to be the speaker in a state legislature. 

I will miss her leadership greatly. She was instrumental in passing many progressive priorities including raising the minimum wage, expanding access to healthcare and paid leave, standards for cleaner fuel and increasing business taxes to fund K-12 schools.

The speaker’s job is a tough one, keeping all the politicians working together making sure we get legislation passed. She is whip smart, dedicated, hard-working and a personal friend who I will greatly miss working with.

I am also lucky enough to know and be friends with her wife Aimee who, like me, got her start in Oregon politics at the Oregon Student Association. I am pretty sure she first met Tina on the campaign trail for her first race to the Oregon House and that is probably when I first got introduced to her.   

I will miss both Peter and Tina’s leadership. Their experience and care for the rest of the personalities in the building made it possible to get so many things done politically for our state.  

Stay tuned for more updates as we do our best to replace them and what the session ahead holds.

Representatively Speaking February 2022

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