Post among legislators stripped of committee assignments
SALEM — Growing political tensions at the Legislature boiled over in mid-February as House Speaker Tina Kotek stripped a powerful Portland Democrat of two committee chairmanships due to his behavior, then booted a Republican legislator with Newberg ties from one committee assignment.
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 served as chairman of the committee since 2007 and will remain as a member.
She then removed state Rep. Bill Post (R-Keizer), who represents Newberg and St. Paul, from his seat on the House Judiciary Committee due to provocative posts on Twitter. The committee handles legislation governing the justice system.
Kotek justified both moves in order to keep governance in the capitol civil and "to uphold the new standards we are all trying to model," she said in a prepared statement released Feb. 21.
Committee placements are not just a matter of ceremony or title. Chairpersons have significant influence over legislation, with authority to kill a bill by never giving it a hearing or advancing legislation to a floor vote.
Legislators 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.
Post caused a stir when he retweeted a tweet from pro-gun control group called Moms Demand Action promoting a 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.
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 Feb. 21, but also defended himself. Post said body language and tone isn't exhibited on social media, causing statements to be misconstrued. He added that he was inviting a balanced debate on gun control, not violence or intimidation.
Still, he also warned about censorship of lawmakers: "Free speech is free speech."
In a letter to all state representatives, Kotek noted Post's history of online exploits, including his often active and off-the-cuff Twitter usage. Last week he called state Sen. Shemia Fagan "cray cray" in reference to her proposal to lower the voting age to 16. Post said he later deleted the tweet.