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April 30th, 2014 12:01 am WW Editorial Staff | Murmurs

Murmurs: Fighting a Measure That’s Not On the Ballot—Yet.

  • Gay-rights advocates aren’t waiting to fight back against a proposed ballot measure that would allow businesses to refuse wedding services to same-sex couples. A new group led by Basic Rights Oregon and the American Civil Liberties Union of Oregon will start airing ads Friday that attack the Protect Religious Freedom Initiative, which is being backed by the Oregon Family Council. The measure is similar to one passed in Mississippi and a narrower version recently vetoed in Arizona by Gov. Jan Brewer. The initiative’s attorney, Shawn Lindsay, says backers could begin gathering the required 87,000 signatures within a couple of weeks. Opponents say they want to stop the measure before it qualifies for the ballot. “Oregon would be the only state in the country where an LGBT-related measure is on the ballot this year,” says Peter Zuckerman, spokesman for Oregon United for Marriage. “That makes it a national focus. If we lose here, the same campaign could be exported across the country.”
  • There’s good and bad news for Oregonians in the bankruptcy of the biggest leveraged buyout in history. Dallas-based Energy Future Holdings filed for Chapter 11 protection April 29, declaring around $40 billion in debt after being bought in part by Texas Pacific Group in 2007. That’s the same Texas Pacific whose bid for Portland General Electric in 2005 was killed by state regulators, who said allowing a buyout firm to gain hold of a utility was too risky. That allowed PGE customers to avoid the fate faced by Energy Future. The bad news? The Oregon Investment Council sunk $1.8 billion into buyout funds used by Texas Pacific and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts to buy Energy Future for $48 billion in 2007. It’s unclear how much of the state’s money went into the buyout, but that equity has now been wiped out, and both funds have performed well below the return Oregon sees from other private equity investments. Oregon State Treasury spokesman James Sinks says that’s why the state diversifies its investments. “You don’t put all your eggs in one basket,” Sinks says. “That helps buffer you when you get the occasional goose egg.”
  • The Zombridge chronicles continue. Oregon officials, having again declared the Columbia River Crossing project dead, can’t seem to let go. On April 10, Metro President Tom Hughes proposed stripping the $2.8 billion project from the region’s long-term transportation plan to tackle parts of it piecemeal. That same day, Oregon Department of Transportation director Matt Garrett fired off a letter, saying removal of the CRC from the region’s strategy “does not respect the thoughtful transportation planning that has taken place” and “is not an appropriate step at this time.” ODOT spokesman Dave Thompson says Garrett isn’t trying to revive the CRC but merely wants a public discussion before any such move is made. “We haven’t changed our answer one little bit for months,” Thompson says. “We are shutting down the project.”
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