Weirdest Sine Die traditions at the Oregon Legislature
Oregon lawmakers forewent their longstanding tradition on the final day of the Oregon Legislature's session, Friday, July 7, of opening the doors to the House and Senate chambers and meeting in the middle of the state Capitol.
Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, made the call to skip the celebratory ritual when senators adjourned for Sine Die — a Latin reference to the end of session — just before noon, more than three hours before the House.
Reflecting on the day, Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, said she didn't take Courtney's decision as a snub.
"We're a little younger. We can take our time," Kotek quipped, referring to senators' generally greater seniority.
Beyond that fanfare, legislators have a number of other quirky Sine Die traditions. Here are some of the weirdest.
No. 3. Aloha Fridays: More than 10 years ago, Rep. Jeff Barker, D-Aloha, began wearing Hawaiian shirts on Fridays in the waning days of the legislative session to signal to his colleagues that it was time to hurry up and finish their work.
"It was a way to remind everybody we should be on vacation," Barker has said.
The custom started in 2003, one the Legislature's longest sessions. The Legislature didn't adjourn until close to Labor Day. Some other legislators, mostly men, joined in the visual motivational message by wearing Hawaiian shirts.
The tradition eventually became known as "Aloha Fridays" in reference to the Hawaiian greeting.
Some people think the name is a spin on Barker's Washington County House district of Aloha, but residents of Aloha would be quick to point out the pronunciation is different, Barker said.
Now emblazoned in unwritten legislative tradition, Aloha Fridays have no regular start date. The ritual starts when Barker shows up in tropical print. This session, lawmakers took off 19 out of 22 Fridays. Some senators, such Sen. Lee Beyer, D-Springfield, expressed their feelings about working on the Fourth of July holiday this year by sporting the Hawaiian shirts.
No. 2 Vintage hat habit: Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, the studious co-chairwoman of the state budget-writing committee, started a spin-off of Barker's tropical shirt tradition in 2015, when she started donning increasingly elaborate items from her vintage hat collection at the end of the session.
In the three days leading up to Sine Die 2017, Nathanson sported a flower wreath July 5 and a cream-color chapeau from the late 1960s "Beatlemania category" July 6, said former House Majority Leader Val Hoyle of Eugene.
The floral hat is Nathanson's "Oregon Country Fair flower head wreath she's had since the mid '70s," Hoyle wrote on Twitter. Hoyle included the hashtag, #EugeneHasHippiesNotHipsters."
Staff members from the House and Senate and lobbyists also joined in Nathanson's Sine Die hat habit. Peggy Boquist, wife of Sen. Brian Boquist, said the fanfare gave her a chance to put her collection of 300 vintage hats on tour in the Capitol. Staff members and lobbyists borrowed the head apparel during the last week of session.
No. 1 Fish photo contest: Two years ago, Rep. Ken Helm, D-Washington County, started what may be the Legislature's quirkiest Sine Die custom, the Fish Photo Contest.
In addition to the randomness of comparing fish photos, the competition seems to bring out the eccentricity of some of the Legislature's members.
Helm on July 6 made a series of fish puns about legislative colleagues who participated in the contest, giving nicknames such as Rep. "Salmon" Sal Esquivel and Rep. Julie "Fish Finder" Fahey. Christine Lewis, lobbyist for the City of Portland, won the contest for a photo of herself with a spring Chinook she caught in the Portland area.
If there had been a most creative category, Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, and Rep. Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, would have been serious contenders.
Kotek posed holding a bag of SWEDISH FISH candy, while Doherty submitted a photo of herself holding a "Phish" sign. Doherty won the nickname of Margaret "Rule Stretcher" Doherty for that ploy.
Helm said the competition was "a way to show my colleagues my strong interest in the sport (of fishing) and to promote outdoor recreation."
"Folks really enjoy seeing the photos, whether they fish or not, because they get a different view of the people they work with everyday," Helm said.