Turns out the swift change in fortunes for a bill that would help Portland's aging horse track yesterday had less to do with lawmakers' soul searching and more to do with a misunderstanding of Democratic leadership's wishes.
That's at least the take of Rep. Bill Kennemer, R-Oregon City, a vice-chair of the House Business and Labor Committee.
A brief refresher: The committee yesterday took up HB 2613, which allows new slot-machine like "instant racing" machines at Portland Meadows, and voted to send it before the Rules Committee, where it would likely languish. Then committee Chair Rep. Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard, called a break. When session resumed, the committee called up the bill again and reversed course, sending it to the House floor with a recommendation for passage.
According to Kennemer, the confusion sprung from a misunderstanding as to what House Speaker Tina Kotek, D-Portland, had in mind for the measure.
"The Speaker has been moving with a rather firm hand about where bills go and whether they move and whatnot," Kennemer tells the Mercury. "There was a thought that it was to have been sent to Rules and was going to Rules without a clear future. Then there was a discovery there was not leadership opposition."
A spokeswoman for the House Democratic Caucus yesterday would not talk about the vote on record, attributing it to a paperwork snafu. Calls to Doherty and other lawmakers on the committee were not returned.
But a cynic might be forgiven for asking: If bills' fates are decided by leadership dictum and lawmakers vote dutifully, what's the purpose of holding hearings the first place?
The support of leadership is, obviously, a boon for Portland Meadows, the anchor of the state's $140 million horse racing industry, which has been weighing closure.