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340 Chapter 17 Governor Victor Atiyeh: Saving a Sinking Ship, 1979-86 Oregon’s 60th Legislative Assembly convened in Salem on January 8, 1979. The 90 lawmakers assembled, as usual, in the crowded House chamber. Outgoing Democratic Governor Robert Straub made a short speech before Oregon’s new governor, Republican Victor Atiyeh, was sworn into office. Governor Atiyeh’s opening address focused on the familiar issues of taxes, property-tax relief, funding for public education, the condition of the state and national economy, and the need to balance the 1979-81 budget by invoking greater efficiency and cost cutting. The Senate got right to work. With a lop-sided 23-7 majority, Democratic senators elected Jason Boe to an unprecedented fourth term as president. Republican L. B. Day of Salem, a local Teamster’s Union official, was returning to the legislature following his service as director of the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). Day had made a name for himself as McCall’s hard-nosed pointman on environmental issues. There were no women senators in the 1979 session. The Oregon House had a terrible time getting started. Fractured along urban-rural lines, majority Democrats spent the first week squabbling over who their new speaker would be. The leading candidate for the job was Portland attorney Hardy Myers. The Hornets (what was left of them*) wanted key committee assignments in exchange for supporting Myers for speaker. Former Republican Minority Leader Roger Martin (another leader of the house rebellion of May 1977) had also left the House, vacating his seat to run * Several key Hornets did not return in 1979. Gone was the head Hornet, Rep. Dick Magruder (who had lost his seat in the primary election in May 1978, and, shortly after, his life in a farm accident). Rep. Jack Sumner of Heppner, an ardent Magruder supporter, didn’t run for reelection. Democrat Ted Kulongoski, one of the architects of the Democrat-Republican coalition that took power midway during the 1977 session, had moved over to the Senate to fill a vacancy in fall 1977. Governor Victor Atiyeh: Saving a Sinking Ship, 1979-86 341 for the Republican nomination for governor in May 1978. Also missing was nine-term Democrat Phil Lang, House speaker in 1975 and 1977, who had lost his seat in November to a Republican newcomer. Even with Magruder, Sumner, Lang, and Kulongoski gone from the House, the Democratic caucus was barely able to hold together as the session started. Hornets Jeff Gilmour, Curtis Wolfer, Drew Davis, and Max Simpson were back, as was Bill Grannell, a member of the notorious Six-Pack, and Rep. Mae Yih of Albany, a conservative Democrat. At the end of the session’s first week, Hardy Myers (a steadfast supporter of Phil Lang in 1977) was elected speaker. Several Hornets were rewarded for supporting him. Bill Grannell was appointed chair of the Revenue Committee; Drew Davis became chair of the Committee on State Government Operations; and Jeff Gilmour chaired the Agriculture Committee. The Legislature of 1979 The issue of energy was high on the agenda. Bills were enacted to promote the refining and use of gasohol (a grain-alcohol plus gasoline blend) as auto fuel in Oregon. “Senate Bill 638 required electric utilities to guarantee that they would purchase any excess power generated by their private customers using such renewable resources as biomass, hydroelectricity, wind, solar, or steam.”1 The legislature also “broadened the conservation and weatherization programs established in 1977 to include manufactured homes, multifamily housing and business establishments.”2 The public’s continuing keen interest in the dangers of cigarette smoking resulted in a law to expand Oregon’s smoking ban during recess in all public meetings (such as city councils, county commissions, school boards, and the legislature itself). All retail stores in Oregon (except tobacco shops) were also required to post signs noting that it is “unlawful to smoke in this store.” When it came to environmental legislation (one of the hallmarks of the legislatures of the 1970s), the 1979 session contented itself with fine-tuning existing laws; they did not enact any more precedent-setting legislation. Where to put solid waste (garbage) was an ongoing concern for Oregon’s rapidly growing urban areas, particularly for metropolitan Portland. The major environmental bill passed in 1979 addressed the issue of where to site solid waste facilities. New authority was given to the Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) to decide where sanitary landfills were to be placed in five Oregon counties...


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