Lawmakers again wrestle with limiting money in Oregon politics

State Sen. Ginny Burdick

Sen. Ginny Burdick was confirmed for one of Oregon's two seats on the Northwest Power and Conservation Council.

The Oregon Senate voted 23-6 on Thursday to confirm Gov. Kate Brown's nomination of the Democrat from Portland. Burdick starts on the four-state council on Nov. 1, when she will have to resign her Senate seat after 25 years.

Commissioners in Multnomah and Washington counties, where Senate District 18 falls, will choose a replacement nominated by Democrats. The appointee will serve until the 2022 general election, when voters will elect someone to complete the remaining two years in the term. The district, which straddles southwest Portland and Tigard, is likely to be redrawn during legislative redistricting.

Burdick, 73, has been a communications consultant, both independently and with the Portland firm of Gard & Gerber. She was elected to the Senate in 1996, and is its current longest serving member. (Senate President Peter Courtney is in his 37th year in the Legislature, but was in the House 14 years before he was elected to the Senate in 1998.)

"The senator has taken on some of the most difficult assignments in the Oregon Legislature and has handled her tasks masterfully," Senate Majority Leader Rob Wagner, D-Lake Oswego, said. "I know she will serve in an incredibly high capacity in this new appointment."

Wagner succeeded Burdick as majority leader last year after she served for almost five years.

Burdick is the current chairwoman of the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee, which she also led in the 2009, 2011 and 2013 legislative cycles. She also led the Judiciary and Rules committees, each for two cycles, and was co-leader of the 2015 House-Senate committee that implemented the 2014 ballot measure legalizing marijuana in Oregon.

Burdick will succeed Richard Devlin of Tualatin, who also was a Democratic senator when Brown nominated him to the council in 2017. His three-year term has expired, but he will continue until Burdick takes the seat. Devlin is the current chairman of the council.

Brown also in 2017 nominated Ted Ferrioli of John Day, a Republican senator since 1997 and Senate Republican leader since 2005, to Oregon's other seat. His term expired and Brown nominated Chuck Sams to succeed Ferrioli in March.

Brown herself was elected to the Senate in 1996, and was Democratic leader from 1998 to 2007. She was elected secretary of state in 2008 before she became governor in 2015.

Six Republicans voted against Burdick's nomination. But four joined all Democrats to vote for it, as did Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas, the Senate's lone independent and the vice chairman of the Finance and Revenue Committee that Burdick leads. One Republican was absent.

Senate Republican Leader Fred Girod of Stayton also voted against Burdick's nomination in the Senate Rules Committee. He said he disapproved of political nominations, even though Brown is not the first governor to appoint sitting legislators to council seats. Gov. Ted Kulongoski named Sen. Joan Dukes, a Democrat from Astoria, in 2005; Gov. John Kitzhaber named Senate President Gene Derfler, a Republican from Salem, as Derfler was leaving office in 2002.

In addition to the council pay of $142,000, Burdick's appointment will boost her final state pension because of her legislative service.

"I have not voted for these kinds of golden parachutes in the past, and I won't start now," Girod said in a statement after the Rules Committee vote on May 11. "These kinds of political favors destroy faith in our democracy and expose the corruption in our politics. I will enthusiastically vote against her nomination on the Senate floor."

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