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Ginny Burdick will step away this fall from the Oregon Senate, where she has been its current longest-serving member for 25 years.

But the Democrat from Portland, who is Gov. Kate Brown's next nominee to the Northwest Power and Conservation Council, said she's not ready to leave Salem just yet. The council seat is held by Richard Devlin of Tualatin, also a former legislator, who wants to stay on until the latest energy plan is completed.

Burdick said Brown asked her whether she wanted to succeed Devlin, whose three-year term ended Jan. 15. It's a salaried job, so she cannot be in the Legislature. She will take the job Nov. 1 for a term ending in January 2024.

"It just worked out perfectly," Burdick said in an interview Monday, April 19. "I made a promise to serve my constituents in the Legislature, and I will do it through this session and any special session we might have on redistricting. There will be plenty of time to get someone new on the job before the next session" in 2022, when lawmakers will meet for just 35 days.

"I am fully engaged right now in the work I am doing that I'm not even thinking retrospectively yet."

Burdick, 73, is the current dean of the Senate, which she was elected to back in 1996. Senate President Peter Courtney of Salem is in his 37th year in the Legislature, but he had 14 years in the House when he was elected to the Senate in 1998.

She turned back a primary challenge in 2020 from Ben Bowman, a member of the Tigard-Tualatin School Board, to win nomination for a seventh term. District 18 covers southwest Portland and Tigard.

She earned a bachelor's degree in psychology in 1969 from the University of Puget Sound, and a master's in journalism in 1973 from the University of Oregon. She covered the 1975 legislative session as a reporter for The Associated Press. She has been a communication consultant, both on her own and for the Portland firm of Gard and Gerber.

She sat on the state Land Conservation and Development Commission, but had not held elected office. She lost a subsequent bid for Portland City Council in 2006.

At 25 years, Burdick will trail only three others for Oregon Senate service: Democrat Cliff Trow of Corvallis, 28 years; Democrat-turned-Republican Lenn Hannon of Ashland, 29 years, and Democrat W.H. Strayer of Baker County, just short of 32 years.

She was Democratic majority leader from 2015 until she stepped down in mid-2020. Before then, she was president pro tem, a largely ceremonial position that goes to a senior member of the Senate's majority party.

Her successor will be appointed by commissioners in Multnomah and Washington counties, but the timing of redistricting after the 2020 Census may affect the process.

Firearms regulation

Burdick is best known for her advocacy of firearms regulation, going back more than two decades.

When Republicans, then holding majorities in both chambers, blocked it in 1999, she went to voters for approval of a 2000 ballot initiative extending background checks to purchases at gun shows. In 2017, she and Sen. Brian Boquist, now an independent from Dallas, won legislative approval of a bill empowering judges to keep firearms out of the hands of people in crisis, known as "red-flag legislation." In 2018 she won approval of legislation aligning the definition of domestic violence in state law, which closed a loophole affecting people in dating relationships.

Burdick was the floor manager for Senate Bill 554, which passed the Senate on March 25 and is pending in the House. It bars concealed-handgun licensees from bringing firearms into state budgets and lets local governments decide similar bans for themselves. She also is the sole Senate sponsor of House Bill 2510, now awaiting a House vote, for firearms locks and safe storage requirements.

"I am fully engaged right now in the work I am doing that I'm not even thinking retrospectively yet," she said.

She led the Judiciary Committee and the Rules Committee, both twice, and was co-leader of the legislative committee created after Oregon voters legalized adult use of marijuana in a 2014 ballot initiative.

Tax committee leader

She leads the Senate Finance and Revenue Committee, which she has done three times before in the 2009, 2011 and 2013 cycles. She said the committee is considering whether to modify some of the tax breaks Congress inserted in the CARES Act and other federal legislation last year. Oregon's tax code usually is linked with the federal code.

She said the committee is wrestling with one break, which critics have deemed double-dipping, that allows businesses to deduct as ordinary expenses the amount of forgiven loans from the federal Small Business Administration under the Paycheck Protection Program. Forgiven debt is usually considered nondeductible under tax law.

She also said the committee is taking a look at the pass-through tax break, which many owners of small businesses use instead of paying business income taxes. "We are taking a fresh look at that to see if it is being used in ways we did not intend," she said.

Along with its House counterpart, the Senate committee considers renewal or creation of state tax credits, which are subtracted directly from taxes owed by individuals or businesses. Among those being considered this session are a renewal of the earned-income tax credit, which benefits low-income families, and a proposed credit that would enable landlords to recoup pandemic-caused losses in rental income if state and federal aid is insufficient.

Because credits reduce the amount of taxes collected, the Legislature's budget committee has to set aside money to offset the projected losses.

"But we have jurisdiction," Burdick said, referring to the revenue committees.

This article originally ran on democratherald.com.

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