- Associated Press - Tuesday, April 19, 2016

SALEM, Ore. (AP) - The Oregon Legislature’s longest-serving member is responding to the prospect of a recall.

A recall petition was filed in February against Senate President Peter Courtney, D-Salem, by Matt Geiger, a two-time candidate for House District 22.

Geiger, who did not respond to repeated requests for comment, filed the petition after dropping out of the race. He was running as an Independent.

In a press release announcing the recall petition, Geiger attacked Courtney on four positions: clean fuels, minimum wage, veterans’ issues and transit.

Courtney, a state legislator for 32 years serving a record seventh term as Senate president, faced recall petitions in 1993 and 2007. Neither collected enough signatures to make the ballot. Geiger has until June 13 to submit the 4,533 signatures needed to put the recall on the ballot.

Courtney defended his record in an interview with the Statesman Journal.

Clean fuels

Geiger said Courtney allowed unfair procedural maneuvers when the Legislature passed a controversial clean fuels bill.

The law requires Oregon to stop buying electricity generated from coal, replacing it with renewable energy sources.

The law will raise energy rates, Geiger said.

An economic analysis of the law shows the future effect on rates is far from certain.

Courtney said he supports the clean fuels law because climate change is a threat to public health.

Young families are “gravely concerned” about climate change as it affects their children’s health, Courtney said.

Minimum wage

Geiger said the novel minimum wage law passed by the Legislature in 2016 will have a negative effect on farm employment.

Farmers are being pushed to automate their work, Geiger said.

Courtney responded by saying he’s “very sensitive” to how the law may affect farmers. Those who do work on farms, he said, deserve a living wage.

Courtney said the Legislature didn’t rush to pass the minimum wage law and called the effort “a good faith attempt” at helping workers.

Veterans

Geiger accused Courtney of disinterest in veterans’ issues because he failed to push a ballot referral dedicating 2 percent of lottery funds to veterans.

That struck a nerve with Courtney.

“I don’t know how many other Senate presidents created a veterans committee with an equal number of Democrats and Republicans,” he said.

Courtney noted that he appointed a Republican to chair that committee. He also spearheaded the effort to ensure veterans don’t have to work on Veterans Day.

Transit

Geiger also criticized Courtney for a bill he sponsored in 2016. The bill would have allowed transit districts with an employer tax to impose an employee tax to pay for services.

The legislation died without a vote.

Geiger said the bill was “unfair” because it would allow a tax without a cap. But in the bill, the employee tax would have been capped at 0.185 percent of income.

Courtney responded by bringing up his history of supporting public transit. In the ‘70s, he was called “the bus boy of city council,” a name Courtney said he wore with pride.

The transit bill was an effort to bring better bus service to the Mid-Willamette Valley, he said.

In Nov. 2015, an employer tax to fund increased bus service in Salem failed in a landslide at the ballot.

Courtney said he’ll do whatever he can to improve bus service in the Mid-Valley, including seeking Sunday and evening service.

Looking ahead

Courtney said he’s striving to live by his campaign motto, “Nobody works harder.”

“I don’t know how else to handle it,” he said of the recall. “Just keep working as hard as you can.”

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Information from: Statesman Journal, https://www.statesmanjournal.com

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