Murmurs: Columbia County House Member-Elect in Trouble

In other news: Oregon’s new gun law in legal limbo.

COLUMBIA COUNTY HOUSE MEMBER-ELECT IN TROUBLE: As first reported Dec. 3 on wweek.com, a judge granted a protective order against state Rep.-elect Brian G. Stout (R-Columbia City) for alleged sexual abuse of a woman in 2021. The judge rejected Stout’s motion to dismiss the order Dec. 5 and set a further hearing for Jan. 13. That’s four days after Stout and other newly elected legislators are set to be sworn in to office in Salem. Lawmakers, legislative staff and lobbyists may not be thrilled about Stout’s presence in the Capitol. “The House speaker and I have been in touch, and we agreed to continue conversations about how to appropriately handle this situation,” says House Minority Leader Vikki Breese-Iverson (R-Prineville). That echoes what House Speaker Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis) had to say on the matter: “The allegations against Rep.-elect Stout are very serious and disturbing. The Republican leader and I have been in contact, and we are continuing conversations about how to appropriately handle this situation and maintain a safe workplace.”

OREGON’S NEW GUN LAW IN LEGAL LIMBO: Days before Measure 114 is set to go into effect, the fate of the gun control legislation remains uncertain. It’s mired in litigation as gun rights advocates and county sheriffs plea with judges to strike down the law as unconstitutional. So far, their success has been mixed. On Tuesday morning, U.S. District Judge Karin Immergut declined to issue a temporary stay on the measure’s implementation, saying the plaintiffs had failed to prove they would “suffer immediate and irreparable harm” if the law went into effect. It would prohibit the sale and use of “large-capacity” magazines holding more than 10 rounds and require buyers to pass a criminal background check, complete training, and obtain a permit before purchasing a gun. (Immergut did give buyers a 30-day window in which they could purchase guns without needing to show a permit.) Kevin Starrett, executive director of the Oregon Firearms Federation, called the decision “disappointing” in an email to supporters circulated online. “Unless something really unexpected happens, understand that your rights will be, once again, seriously eroded starting Thursday,” Starrett said. The unexpected did happen. Hours later, a judge in Harney County (population: 7,495) issued a temporary restraining order preventing Gov. Kate Brown and Oregon Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum from enforcing the law. Absent this order, Harney County Circuit Judge Rob Raschio wrote, “plaintiffs will be deprived of their right to bear arms.” Whether the law goes into effect Dec. 8 is now up to the Oregon Supreme Court.

KOTEK NAMES CHIEF AND TRANSITION TEAM LEADERS: Gov.-elect Tina Kotek named her chief of staff Dec. 6: Andrea Cooper, currently deputy chief of staff to Gov. Kate Brown. Prior to joining Brown’s office in 2020, Cooper served as political director for Service Employees International Union, the state’s largest public employee union. Before that, Cooper ran Future PAC, the House Democrats’ campaign arm. “Andrea Cooper is a skilled manager and a strategic, collaborative leader. She is ready to build a team of problem-solvers who will always put the needs of the people of Oregon first,” Kotek said. The governor-elect also named her transition team: Annaliese Dolph, a lawyer and former Kotek aide, is the health care lead; Abby Tibbs, a senior Oregon Health & Science University official, is helping prepare Kotek’s first budget; outgoing state Rep. Karin Power (D-Milwaukie) is the policy lead; and Taylor Smiley Wolfe, who previously worked for Kotek and Home Forward, is the housing lead. “In the weeks leading up to inauguration,” Kotek said, “our focus will be on getting ready to address issues of shared concern across our state: homelessness, mental health and addiction, and successful schools.”

CITY CHARTER COMMISSION PROPOSES SECOND SLATE OF AMENDMENTS: Fresh off persuading voters to make sweeping changes to Portland’s form of government, the city Charter Commission sent six proposed amendments Dec. 3 to the Portland City Council. They include aspirational goals on public engagement and environmental protection, as well as specifics to expand voting rights; lift the 5% cap on the transient lodging tax; create a transparency advocate to help Portlanders obtain public records and access their government; and introduce “participatory budgeting” to allow Portlanders to establish policy goals and allocate 1% of the city’s general fund budget (about $7.3 million). The City Council will consider the proposed amendments Jan. 19. Those it approves will appear on the November 2024 ballot—just as voters elect a new, 12-member City Council.