By Peter Toll
It would appear the National Popular Vote bill, once thought dead in the Oregon Legislature, has come back to life. House Bill 2927, which would have Oregon sidestepping the Electoral College if certain things occur nationally, recently got a ‘do pass’ recommendation from the House Rules Committee. A full House vote and then off to the Senate are imminent.
Therein lies the rub. Senate President Peter Courtney has done his own little pocket veto of the legislation in three prior sessions. After passing the House, Courtney wouldn’t let it even have a hearing in the Senate, where it would thus die a dishonorable death without seeing the light of day there.
Courtney, who has been described as irascible, intimidating, charming and masterful in his political work, has changed his tune this year. Sort of. Could it be partially attributed to 21 county Democratic central committees endorsing the bill, including Clackamas County?
Courtney has been president of the Oregon Senate longer than anyone else. First elected to the House from his then-West Salem-based district (which now stretches up to Woodburn) in 1980, his tenure is longer than any other current legislator. For him to stay in office and in power that long speaks to his ability to read the political tea leaves, understand which way the wind is blowing (both to and from), and get stuff done. Compromise is important.
Courtney’s way of handling the current elections issue? By putting it on the ballot for all Oregonians to consider. He wants the voters to determine if the NPV is best for Oregon. Slick move, Senator.
But then the legislative process has always been compared to making sausage: the making is ugly, but the product can be quite acceptable. That seems to be Courtney’s notion this time.