Deschutes County Democratic Party.............
From: The Huffington Post
Jeff Merkley Takes Up Mantle Of LGBT Equality From Ted Kennedy
WASHINGTON -- As backers of the Employment Non-Discrimation Act hustle to round up extra support before an expected vote Monday evening, there are murmurs that the bill would be more palatable to Republican senators if it didn't include protections for transgender individuals.
But Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), the leader of the effort to pass ENDA in the Senate and the man who introduced the legislation in the current Congress, said that's not happening.
"I have fought for fully inclusive legislation in Oregon. I knew that fully inclusive legislation had worked very well in the states that had adopted it, and I thought it would just be wrong to leave any particular group behind on this," he told The Huffington Post in an interview.
ENDA would make it illegal to discriminate against someone on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. It is already illegal to discriminate on the basis of race, color, sex, nationality, religion, age or disability.
For years, the late Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) was ENDA's champion. Before he passed away in 2009, he asked Merkley to take the baton and champion the legislation that was near and dear to his heart.
"When Sen. Kennedy asked me to undertake this, my response to his team was, I'll only do so if it's fully inclusive," said Merkley, adding, "It was really a huge surprise to me that his team asked me to undertake leadership on this."
Merkley, however, was perhaps a natural fit, after the work he had done on the issue at the state level. In 2007, as an Oregon state senator, he shepherded a fully inclusive workplace non-discrimination law to passage in the state legislature.
"I had led this battle in Oregon successfully and had been deeply committed to it," he said. "I feel that such discrimination is wrong and our vision of equality in the Constitution, our vision of the pursuit of happiness in the Constitution and kind of a fundamental sense of fair play -- all of those things mean that it is just wrong for people not to have a fair shake at getting or retaining a job."
ENDA hasn't had a vote on the House or Senate floor since November 2007, when it passed the House 235-184. That version of the bill did not provide protections on the basis of gender identity.
Six years later, the legislation is set to be considered again. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) announced last week that he will be bringing ENDA up for a vote Monday evening, and the bill appears to be very close to getting the 60 votes needed for passage.
It currently has the support of the entire Democratic caucus, as well as Sens. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), who are cosponsors. Sen. Dean Heller (R-Nev.) announced his support Monday morning, becoming the third Republican to back the bill.
Advocates believe a handful of other Republican senators may be persuadable. Among them are Sens. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), both of whom voted ENDA out of committee but haven't committed to supporting it on the floor. Hatch revealed last week that he might like to see some changes to the legislation. Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), meanwhile, has said he is "inclined to support" the bill.
Merkley said he is "cautiously optimistic" at this point that ENDA will pass the Senate. He also said he is working with senators who are on the fence about small changes to the legislation, although he declined to reveal what they were.
"We are engaged with a number of folks who have some little tweaks here and there that they'd like to see, and some of them are quite reasonable, and we're trying to bring everybody forward together to find that magic point," he said. "That sort of change does not compromise anything about the core nature of this bill at all. And there have been some other changes requested that would essentially gut the bill. Obviously we've indicated that those changes wouldn't be possible."
Senators who are undecided about backing ENDA cite three main concerns. They worry about the implications of its protections for transgender individuals, that it will restrict religious organizations and that it will lead to a proliferation of lawsuits.
On the first point, 17 states and the District of Columbia -- not to mention more than a hundred local governments and many businesses -- already have protections on the basis of gender identity in place. ENDA does not require workplaces to build new restrooms or locker facilities for transgender employees. And the Human Rights Campaign has found that in workplaces with fully inclusive anti-discrimination policies, the issue of shared facilities has not been a major issue, despite warnings from conservative groups like the Heritage Foundation.
ENDA also includes a broad exemption for religious organizations and religiously affiliated groups.
Merkley said the biggest concern he has encountered is whether ENDA will lead to more lawsuits, and so he asked the Government Accountability Office to look into the issue. In July 2013, it issued a report concluding that in states with LGBT workplace protections, "there were relatively few employment discrimination complaints based on sexual orientation and gender identity filed."
"And the business community in those places that have adopted some form of employment non-discrimination have continued to be very supportive, which tells you this did not become an issue of concern," Merkley added.
In order to round up the support ENDA has today, Merkley spoke individually with all of the Democratic senators who weren't in the initial group of 40 cosponsors. He also met with Murkowski before the committee vote, and he's currently in conversations with Portman, according to a source familiar with the Senate ENDA effort.
"Sen. Merkley has been effective and persistent," said a Senate Democratic leadership aide. "He’s built and maintained a strong bipartisan coalition, he’s kept Senate Leadership focused on this issue, and he’s effectively persuaded outside advocates to support this legislation.”
In his interview with The Huffington Post, however, Merkley was eager to give credit to others for the work.
He praised Collins and Kirk for reaching out to Republican senators, and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) for getting the bill through the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions, which Harkin chairs. Merkley also gave a significant amount of credit to Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wis.), the only openly gay senator, who has been having personal conversations with her colleagues about the importance of ENDA.
"[She] has sat down with many, many people, talked about her story, about fairness ... and how critical it is to having equality under our Constitution, to be able to have a fair opportunity in life and how right it is to end this kind of discrimination. I think her bringing her personal story and her very calm presentation to sit down with folks one on one has been very helpful," said Merkley.
On the outside, a coalition called Americans for Workplace Opportunity, led by the Human Rights Campaign, has deployed more than 30 field organizers to New Hampshire, West Virginia, Ohio, Arizona, Arkansas, Nevada and Pennsylvania to build support for ENDA. Other groups like Project Right Side and Freedom to Work have specifically been reaching out to Republican senators as well.
"He has gone senator to senator, had conversations with the folks he needed to move ... he just never let up," HRC Vice President for Government Affairs Allison Herwitt said of Merkley. "He has spent an enormous amount of personal time doing what needs to be done."
ENDA's prospects of passing the GOP-controlled House of Representatives are significantly dimmer than they are in the Senate. When asked what could be done to nudge the bill along in the lower chamber, Merkley said the focus needed remain on the Senate for the time being.
"The single biggest thing I can do to help in the House is to have a successful outcome in the Senate," he said. "I think if it does not make it through the Senate, it will not have momentum carrying into the House for the House to bring it up."
From: Think Progress
By Sy Mukherjee
In a striking illustration of the promise that the health law holds for consumers, two Oregon private insurers vying to sell coverage on the state’s Obamacare insurance marketplace this October are reevaluating their opening bids for the plans’ monthly premiums. The reason? A side-by-side regional comparison of all proposed 2014 premiums for Oregon marketplace plans became public on Oregon’s marketplace website Thursday, and showed that the two insurers’ planned monthly premiums were far higher than other proposals. That raised fears among the companies’ officials that their plans wouldn’t be competitive on the market later this year, leading them to proactively request a rate reduction — and as more of Obamacare is implemented, state insurance commissioners expect that trend to continue:
“Posting rate comparisons company-by-company is a taste of what is to come,” says Cheryl Martinis of the Oregon Insurance Division.
Judging by the reaction, there’s already an impact.
Providence Health Plan on Wednesday asked to lower its requested rates by 15 percent. Gary Walker, a Providence spokesman, says the “primary driver” was a realization that the plan’s cost projections were incorrect. But he conceded a desire to be competitive was part of it.
A Family Care Health Plans official on Thursday said the insurer will ask the state for even greater decrease in requested rates. CEO Jeff Heatherington says the company realized its analysts were too pessimistic after seeing online that its proposed premiums were the highest.
“That was my question when I saw the rates was, ‘Can we go in and refile these?’” he said. “We’re going to try to get these to a competitive range.”
From Blue Oregon
By Neel Pender of Portland, Oregon. From 1999 to 2007, Neel was the executive director of the Democratic Party of Oregon.
I had a chance to catch up with Brad Martin -- the Democratic Party of Oregon's new, veteran Executive Director. To all my Oregon politicos and any one who cares about politics, if you don't know Brad yet, take the time to get to know him and support his work. He is one of -- if not the best -- in the country and we're lucky to have him.
It's funny how far things have come.
Today's O has an op-ed about Republicans searching for relevancy and competing against the "professionalized Democrative voter turnout machine." Truth is, it wasn't so long ago that across the country Democrats were the ones getting their teeth kicked in; the complacency of being in the majority and the influx of 'soft money' to fund issue ads had in fact made our grassroots 'soft'.
One of the leaders in the trenches fighting that trend (note: not a talking head on TV or in DC) was Brad Martin -- for years in Idaho and Montana and as part of Gov. Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy. It's easy to forget in the more enlightened, tactical Obama era but it required hard work and a willingness to challenge conventions. I'm proud to have conspired with and learned from Brad back in the day for a smarter, more effective, more focused, more accountable, more results-oriented party.
The challenge today (as I see it) isn't so much to beat the rather hapless Oregon Republicans -- though the Legislature can never be taken for granted.
Rather, it is for Democrats to lead with ample urgency to solve problems -- and problems are hard, that's why they are problems. Solving them means taking risks, stepping on toes, forging compromise and shared sacrifice, leading and not being led by special interests -- friend and foe -- and educating the public and delivering results.
The 'system' has a tendency to stifle these objectives. See tax policies that have led to decades-long disinvestment in public education during a period of meteoric rises in income inequality. The point here is this: Your voice matters.
Brad is 27 days in and is here for the long term. Welcome him. Help him. Give advice and lend your support. Set aside preconceived notions and focus on new opportunities and leveraged partnerships. Waiting for Election Day for change isn't a strategy for success. If you are looking for a way to plug in, challenge Brad to make it relevant and accessible to you, and sign up at DPO.org.
From: Blue Oregon
The Democratic Party of Oregon has a new chair. This weekend, in an election entirely of devoid of drama (unlike the Republicans), the DPO elected Frank Dixon as the new chair of the party. The vote was uncontested (unlike six years ago, when there was a robust campaign for the job.)
Frank's been the first vice-chair of the party for six years and founded the party's GLBT caucus. He's also been the board chair of Basic Rights Oregon - and, as a US Army veteran, founded Veterans for Human Rights. From his statement:
"We're not going to rest until Senator Jeff Merkley, the Governor, our Democratic congressional delegation, and majorities in the State House and Senate are reelected on November 4th, 2014. I'm counting on our campaign teams and activists from all thirty-six counties to share the Democratic story--our accomplishments and vision to continue to build a better Oregon. We won't rest because standing at our borders are the likes of Karl Rove and the Koch Brothers, ready to spend whatever it takes to win for the GOP."
In addition, Brad Martin came on board last month as the new executive director at the DPO. He previously served in the same post at the Montana state party, and then joined Howard Dean in DC as part of his leadership team at the DNC. From his statement:
"Oregon has a strong reputation for combining grassroots activism and highly professional campaigns at the county and state level. I'm excited to join Oregon's Democratic team as we look forward to 2014. Together, we'll hold the seats of Senator Jeff Merkley, Governor John Kitzhaber, and our Democratic Congressional delegation, keep our majorities in the Oregon State House and Senate, and elect great Democrats at all levels across the state."
In addition to Frank's election, the DPO also shuffled a few other board spots. Washington County's Karen Packer moves up to first vice-chair from the second slot. And Deschutes County's Wayne Kinney slides into the second vice-chair spot after several years as the DNC Committeman. Tanya Shively remains DPO secretary and Douglas County's Lorna Hayden is the new state party treasurer.
Saying Goodby to our Campaign Office
We need to be out of our campaign office on Saturday, Nov. 10. It's been a great location for us, but now its time to say goodby to this terriffic space.
Many of you donated furniture and fixtures for us to use during the campaign. Thank you so much for helping us put together one of best offices in the state. Now its time to take your stuff back. If you want your things back, please pick them up after 2 p.m. on Friday, or 10 a.m. on Saturday. Anything left here after 2 p.m. on Saturday is going to be donated to a second-hand store.
If you are unable to get your stuff, call me and we'll work something out. If you want to help us take everything apart, be at the office on Friday afternoon or Saturday morning. If anyone has a truck and is willing to help us haul things to storage or second-hand stores, or the dump, we need your help.