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Oregon Lawmakers Could Define 'First Partner'

File photo of Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes speaking in Bend in 2012.
Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
File photo of Oregon first lady Cylvia Hayes speaking in Bend in 2012.

Oregon lawmakers are advancing a bill that would for the first time officially define the spouse or partner of a governor.

The measure approved by the House Wednesday comes amid an ongoing criminal ethics investigation into the long-time romantic partner of former Governor John Kitzhaber.

Kitzhaber referred to Cylvia Hayes as his first lady. The two weren't married. But nothing in state law actually defined who could be first lady or what that person could or couldn't do in that role. This measure would define the "First Partner" as the spouse or domestic partner of the governor.

That still wouldn't cover someone like Hayes. So the measure would also direct the state Ethics Commission to create a rule about which kinds of "personal relationships" could qualify someone as "First Partner."

The bill would also designate the "First Partner" as a public official. That would make them subject to ethics laws that already apply to other statewide office holders.

The measure passed by a wide margin and now heads to the Oregon Senate.

Copyright 2015 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman
Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.