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House Speaker Tina Kotek strips Greenlick, Post of key roles, saying their behavior does not match the sort of culture legislative leadership is working to achieve.

PMG FILE PHOTO - Northwest Portland state Rep. Mitch Greenlick, a Democrat, was stripped of his chairmanships of two House committees after a Tuesday, Feb. 19, outburst at a House Health Care Committee hearing.SALEM — State Rep. Andrea Salinas of Lake Oswego was named chair of the House Health Care Committee on Thursday after a powerful Northwest Portland Democrat was stripped of two committee chairmanships because of his behavior.

Kotek removed state Rep. Mitch Greenlick, D-Portland, as chairman of the House Health Committee for calling a lobbyist "stupid" during a recent meeting. Greenlick has chaired the committee since 2007 and will remain as a member. He also lost his position as chairman of the House Conduct Committee, which reviews complaints of misconduct by lawmakers.

In addition, Kotek removed Rep. Bill Post, R-Keizer, from his seat on the House Judiciary Committee due to provocative tweets. She justified both steps as moves to keep governance in the Capitol civil. Kotek acted, she said in a Feb. 21 statement, "to uphold the new standards we are all trying to model."

SALINASLegislators came into the session already under a cloud because of behavior relating to complaints and investigations of harassment of legislative employees and others. Legislative leaders were sued twice in the past week for overlooking harassment allegations by employees.

Committee placements are not just a matter of ceremony or title. Chairs have significant influence over legislation, with authority to kill a bill by never giving it a hearing or advancing legislation to a floor vote.

A public health researcher, Greenlick has been a stalwart of Oregon health care policy, leading legislative efforts to expand government health care to more low-income Oregonians.

But health care has always been a priority for Salinas, too. She was appointed to her House seat in late 2017 when Ann Lininger was named a circuit court judge and then ran unopposed for a full term in November.

But health care has always been a priority for Salinas, too. She was appointed to her House seat in late 2017 when Ann Lininger was named a circuit court judge and then ran unopposed for a full term in November.

"I'm so honored to be handed the House Health Care Committee gavel and even more humbled by the big shoes I have to fill," Salinas told The Lake Oswego Review this week. "Like my predecessor, and mentor, I want to focus on health care system transformation in both the private market and Medicaid. Consumers are paying far too much for health care in the US and Oregon is no different.

"I want to find solutions to deliver higher quality health care with better health outcomes to all Oregonians at a reasonable price," she added. "And whether this is focusing on the cost drivers like prescription drugs and hospital costs or care delivery and payment systems, I'm driven to find long-term, sustainable solutions to our healthcare system challenges."

Asked last week how he felt about Kotek's decision, Greenlick demurred.

"I don't have anything to say," he said. "The only thing I can say is I think Andi Salinas would be a good chair."

'Showboating'?

COURTESY PHOTO - State Rep. Mitch Greenlick, shown here in a video screenshot from a Feb. 19 hearing, chided phramaceutical company representatives about legislation requiring a 60-day notice of drug price increases.Greenlick riled Republicans twice in recent weeks. The first came Feb. 5 when he cut off Rep. Denyc Boles, R-Salem, in a committee meeting in attempt to move on to the next bill. Boles complained on the House floor that she was "shushed."

On 19, Greenlick publicly criticized Eric Lohnes, senior director of state policy at the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America, who testified against House Bill 2658, legislation that would require pharmaceutical companies to give the state 60 days notice before raising prices.

"I've been listening to your guys' comments for 16 years," Greenlick told Lohnes during the waning minutes of the hearing. "Generally, you're not stupid. In this case, you appear to be stupid."

Greenlick apologized at the end of the hearing for what he called an "outburst." "It's probably good that I'm at the end of my career," Greenlick told lawmakers on the committee after the hearing.

After a short exchange during the hearing, Greenlick accused Rep. Christine Drazan, R-Canby, of "showboating" when she expressed concerns about those remarks during the committee hearing. That prompted Republicans to boycott a Wednesday evening meeting of a legislative committee focused on improving the Capitol work culture.

House Republican leader Carl Wilson, R-Grants Pass, asked Kotek to strip Greenlick of his chairman position on the health care committee.

Greenlick declined further comment Thursday.

PMG FILE PHOTO - State Rep. Bill Post, a Keizer Republican, was stripped of his seat on the House Judiciary Committee Thursday, Feb. 21, because of provocative tweets.Kotek said in a House speech Thursday morning that her moves weren't politically motivated. "Mitch Greenlick is a friend and mentor and someone whose service to Oregon has been profound," Kotek said. "And yet, we must all be held to a high standard."

Kotek said Greenlick acted inappropriately. But she also dressed down Republicans, saying their outcry over Greenlick was sensational. "We will fail in this endeavor if we don't embrace constructive dialogue first before we proceed to public incriminations," she said.

Kotek warned Republicans of overplaying grievances in public rather than constructively working to fix workplace issues. "Playing this out with a press release or two won't advance our common goal," Kotek said.

In a letter to all representatives, Kotek noted Post's history of online exploits. He's known for active and off-the-cuff Twitter usage. This week, he called state Sen. Shemia Fagan, D-Clackamas, "cray cray" — slang for crazy — in reference to her proposal to lower the voting age to 16. Post said he later deleted the tweet.

Post caused a stir when he retweeted a tweet from pro-gun control group called Moms Demand Action promoting their upcoming rally at the Capitol. Post tagged the Twitter account of the Oregon Firearms Federation and said "be ready, be there!"

The tweet was viewed as insensitive because of violent clashes between protesters and counter-protesters in Oregon over the past year, and because he sent it days after the one-year anniversary of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

"Given the pattern of his behavior, I believe it is necessary to remove him from his position on the House Committee on Judiciary, effective immediately," Kotek said.

Offended by social media

It's not the first time Post has drawn ire for his posts on social media. Last year, in the midst of a ballot measure campaign to restrict gun ownership led by three clergymen, Post publicly posted their home addresses and phone numbers.

Post apologized for the offense that his tweets caused Thursday but also defended himself. Post said body language and tone isn't exhibited on social media, causing statements to be misconstrued. He said he was inviting balanced debate on gun control, not violence or intimidation.

Post also warned about censorship of lawmakers. "Free speech is free speech," Post said.

"Words from the presiding officers ring hollow," Greg Stiles, a spokesman for House Republicans said in a statement. "Instead, an inflammatory and disrespectful atmosphere persists the Capitol."

Wilson said on Thursday that Republican legislators would return to duty on the culture committee. But he expressed concern about proposed legislation that addresses lawmakers' conduct on social media. "(The bill) could put any in danger, depending on how someone feels about what you've done, and we've got to be extremely careful about that. I mean we have to be way careful about that," Wilson told the House. "Social media is implicated, and also other media as well. If you appear on a radio talk show and say something that could offend someone, that happens all the time."

Wilson declined an interview but released a statement vowing to work toward improving the Capitol culture.

That may take some work. A month into the session, every legislator's comments are facing more intense scrutiny. That attention shows no signs of letting up. Public lawsuits and investigations allege the Legislature is inhospitable for women to work. The rise of the #MeToo movement and resurgence of mainstream feminism in the Trump era have put a microscope on lawmakers' day-to-day interactions.

This week's events show the friction among individual members about what changes need to be made.

Last year, Sen. Jeff Kruse, R-Roseburg, was ousted over his unwanted touching of women at the Capitol, and allegations of sexual harassment that surfaced publicly with the labor commissioner's report led to the recent resignation of Senate President Peter Courtney's communications director.

Legislators and their employees recently attended sexual harassment training sessions, but several legislators complained that a trainer brought in earlier this month made inappropriate remarks, making light of harassment.

Rep. Nancy Nathanson, D-Eugene, will replace Greenlickat the helm of the Conduct Committee. Rep. Duane Stark, R-Grants Pass, will replace Post on the Judiciary Committee.

Lake Oswego Review Editor Gary M. Stein contributed to this story. Reach Capital Bureau reporters Aubrey Wieber and Claire Withycombe at 971-304-4148.

WAGNER ALSO LEADS KEY COMMITTEE

State Rep. Andrea Salinas isn't the only lawmaker from Lake Oswego who will play an increasingly important role in the Legislature this year. In January, State Sen. Rob Wagner was selected to chair the Senate Education Committee by Senate President Peter Courtney.

In addition, Wagner will serve on the budget-writing Joint Committee on Ways and Means and co-chair the Ways and Means SubCommittee on General Government (which sets budgets for a variety of government functions).

"This is an exciting time in Oregon's history to chair the Senate Education Committee," says Wagner, who is also a member of the Lake Oswego School Board. "It's not good enough to fix a few things in education and call it good. We are looking for nothing short of an educational transformation in this state."

Wagner was appointed in early 2018 to replace Sen. Richard Devlin in Senate District 19 and was easily elected to his first full term in the November general election. Before running for office, he spent a decade lobbying on behalf of Oregon teachers, faculty, health care workers and academic support professionals. Most recently, he served as associate vice president of college advancement at Portland Community College, overseeing community outreach and working to secure student scholarship funding.

— The Review


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