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Oregon Legislature reshuffles key education committee after Republican resigns in tax protest

Oregon Legislature reshuffles key education committee after Republican resigns in tax protest
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SALEM – The Oregon Legislature reshuffled an important committee tasked with improving the education system on Thursday, after a key Republican resigned in protest over Democrats’ tax plan.

During a contentious floor vote on a corporate tax bill last week, Republican Sen. Brian Boquist of Dallas told Senate Democrats they were only creating the look of bipartisanship.

Boquist then asked to be removed from the education committee Senate President Peter Courtney created in January, saying, “I’m done with the charade, Mr. president.”

Boquist and other Republicans were upset that Senate Democrats passed Senate Bill 1528, which would prevent Oregon from copying into state law a new federal tax break for businesses including partnerships and S corporations.  

Courtney, a Salem Democrat, modeled the Joint Committee on Student Success on a bipartisan model that lawmakers employed to develop a transportation funding plan they passed last year. Boquist played a key role in negotiating that deal.

On Thursday, Courtney announced that Sen. Kim Thatcher, a Republican from Keizer, would replace Boquist on the committee.

Courtney also removed Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick and replaced her with Sen. Lew Frederick. Both are Democrats from Portland.

Burdick said in an interview Thursday that it made sense for Frederick to take over, because he had already attended all of the meetings and is knowledgeable on the subject.  

“Lew has an extensive background in education,” Burdick said. “He asks really good questions …

This is really a recognition of how much he’s been contributing even as a non-member and now he’s a member and I think that’s good for everyone.”

Frederick has worked as a television reporter, spokesman for Portland Public Schools, and as a “teacher, actor and ranch-hand,” according to his legislative biography.

Burdick said the committee, which is supposed to first identify what Oregonians want from their education and system look into how to pay for it, has so far focused on gathering background information. After lawmakers wrap up the legislative session, which could happen this weekend, the committee is supposed to start traveling around the state to seek public input on “what constitutes a good education and go from there.” 

— Hillary Borrud; Twitter: @hborrud; 503-294-4034  

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