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Dispatches from public radio's correspondent at the Oregon Legislature. This is a venue for political and policy coverage of the state government in Salem and its impact on the people of Oregon.

Oregon Lawmakers Could Define 'First Partner'

Chris Lehman
Northwest News Network
While former Governor John Kitzhaber Kitzhaber referred to Cylvia Hayes as his ''first lady,'' a measure in the Oregon legislature would officially define the spouse or partner of a governor.

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.