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As you gather ’round the holiday table, or seek to converse via Zoom, where will your small talk take you? Fear not, dear readers, for I offer the following nuggets of news for spicing your chatter.

Each tidbit is intriguing but doesn’t merit a column on its own. The late Oregon columnist Ron Blankenbaker referred to such items as “pieces of string too short to save.”

Without further ado, and in no particular order …

• When the Oregon Employment Department eventually rolls out its new technology, Oregonians will know whom to thank, or blame: Frances.

The IT project will handle unemployment insurance and the future paid family and medical leave insurance program. The project is long from completion. But officials this week announced, “Exciting news! The name of our new modernized system.” The name they chose honors Frances Perkins, who was President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s long-serving secretary of Labor.

• Mike Cully’s demise is one of the strangest I can recall. The League of Oregon Cities’ executive director got into a Twitter fight – about tipping fast food workers – with Beaverton Mayor Lacey Beaty on Friday. Really.

On Saturday, Beaty filed a complaint with the LOC about Cully’s inappropriate and reportedly profane language. The LOC board accepted Cully’s resignation Monday evening. By the way, Cully’s profile on LinkedIn refers to his “Transformative Leadership."

• By next summer, Oregon will have been under a COVID-19 state of emergency for more than two years. On Tuesday, Gov. Kate Brown extended her pandemic emergency declaration through June 30, 2022. She had not mentioned the upcoming extension during her Friday press conference in which she discussed the predicted surge in coronavirus infections.

• As of Thursday afternoon 12 Democrats and 11 Republicans had filed to run for Oregon governor. Former New York Times columnist Nick Kristof is the latest, filing Monday as a Democrat. Kristof resides on the family farm outside Yamhill. But as was first reported by Oregon Public Broadcasting, the State Elections Division wants more information before determining whether he meets the three-year residency requirement.

The filings are for the May 17 primary election for the Republican and Democratic parties. They do not include independent candidates, such as former state Sen. Betsy Johnson, or third-party candidates. 

Now that Oregon courts have upheld the congressional legislative redistricting maps, candidates can begin filing on Jan. 1 to run for U.S. representative, state senator and state representative. Filing continues through March 8. Unlike candidates for the U.S. House, legislative candidates must live within their district. 

• What will the 60-member Oregon House look like in 2023? Women – 22 Democrats and 12 Republicans – currently are in the majority. The newest member is Rep. Jessica George, R-St. Paul, who was sworn in last week to replace former Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer. He resigned after moving to Nevada.

There could have been a 35th woman in the House. The Marion County commissioners, all Republicans, selected Salem City Councilor Chris Hoy over three women applicants to finish the term of former Rep. Brian Clem, D-Salem, who resigned. By law, an appointed legislator must be from the same political party as the person who left the office.

Meanwhile, a number of House members are forgoing reelection and choosing to retire or seek higher office. The most recent announcements include Rep. Sheri Schouten, D-Beaverton, who is retiring, and Rep. Raquel Moore-Green, R-Salem, who is running for the Senate.

Schouten’s story is unique. She met her future husband, then-Washington County Commissioner Dick Schouten, on the campaign trail. Both were widowed. During then-Rep. Malstrom’s first term in 2017, he proposed to her on the House floor. The next year, Gov. Brown officiated at their wedding.

• The Legislature officially has two new top managers. Interim Legislative Administrator Brett Hanes had “interim” removed from his title. Legislative Administration includes human resources, facilities, finance, information technology and visitor services. Amanda Beitel was named legislative fiscal officer, leading the nonpartisan staff that works on state budgets and analyzes the fiscal impact of legislation. 

• Legislators participated from all over for Friday’s virtual meeting of the Legislative Emergency Board, which appointed Beitel. Sen. Bill Hansell, R-Athena, called in from the Walla Walla Regional Airport in Washington. Rep. Rob Nosse, D-Portland, was on video from his car. (He said he wasn’t driving.) 

The Club for Growth Foundation has gathered statistics on individual legislators’ attendance. The average state senator in Oregon missed 7% of floor votes during this year’s regular legislative session, compared with 8% for state representatives. A few lawmakers scored perfect attendance. 

• Sen. Chris Gorsek, D-Troutdale, said the Oregon Task Force on School Safety will take a deep look into school resource officers next year. Gorsek opposes their unilateral removal from schools. He is a task force member, a former police officer and a longtime instructor of criminal justice at Mt. Hood Community College.

• The new president of the Oregon Farm Bureau comes from the state’s most populous county, Multnomah. Angi Bailey operates a Gresham nursery that specializes in Japanese maples. Elected this month to a two-year term, she has filled the presidential role since last spring when OFB President Barb Iverson stepped aside for health reasons. 

• U.S. Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-4th District, recently announced big money for Oregon from the federal infrastructure bill – $662,172,634 for improving roads, highways and bridges, and $42,199,830 for Oregon airports. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-1st District, announced $92,079,000 from that same legislation to fix and expand drinking water and wastewater systems in Oregon. 

• Thanks to successful petition drives, voters in Douglas and Klamath counties will consider May ballot measures that would take small steps toward the possibility of Eastern and Southern Oregon becoming part of Idaho

• In its list of holiday-sounding places, the U.S. Census Bureau includes Unity, Oregon. The town in Baker County has 40 residents. No mention is made of unincorporated Christmas Valley in Lake County. The Census Bureau also says the U.S. has more bookstores than either home-improvement centers or department stores. Really.

Dick Hughes, who writes the weekly Capital Chatter column, has been covering the Oregon political scene since 1976. Contact him at TheHughesisms@Gmail.com, Facebook.com/Hughesisms, YouTube.com/DickHughes or @DickHughes.

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