John Kitzhaber once called Oregon “ungovernable.” Now, he’s forging bipartisan alliances that are making it one of the best-governed states in the nation.
BY: JOHN BUNTIN | MAY 2012
Oregon Democrats and Republicans were gridlocked. The Legislature had been in session for weeks but had passed onlyone piece of major legislation, a bill to implement a program it had approved one year earlier. Gov. John Kitzhaber, a Democrat, was demanding that Republicans enact a sweeping overhaul of the state education system. Democratic legislators also wanted foreclosure relief and legislation setting up a health exchange.
Neither side could force the other to act. The House was evenly divided, with Democratic and Republican co-speakers. In mid-February, Kitzhaber attempted to break the impasse on education reform by summoning business leaders and their representatives to a press conference at the Capitol. It didn’t work. No sooner had Kitzhaber begun his remarks than the House Republican leadership, led by Co-Speaker Bruce Hanna, marched into the room and lined up, glowering near the governor. When the governor offered a greeting, he got no response. Behind the scenes, Hanna had worked the phones to remind business constituencies who their “real” allies were in this fight.
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