People who know former Senator Randy Miller will confirm that he has a legacy of commitment to a self-serving project. No, not for personal gain or glory, fame or fortune; though it did leave many people fuming over, well, fumes. The charismatic Republican senator from West Linn is passionate about many things, especially if they relate to his golf game. But during his time in the Oregon Senate 20 years ago, Miller was obsessed with legislating away his greatest pet peeve — the prohibition on self-service gas.
“Why, oh, why,” Miller would repeatedly proclaim on the Senate floor, “does this body feel they cannot trust their fellow Oregonians with pumping their own gas?”
Miller didn’t just take a run at eliminating the prohibition. He wanted it to be his signature achievement. Time and again, session after session, when it was ‘Miller Time’ in the Senate, it was Randy trying to convince his recalcitrant colleagues to free his hands so he could grasp that nozzle and feel the exhilaration of filling his sports car’s petrol portal all by himself.
He came close once. In one session, he garnered 14 votes — so close, yet so far. It went downhill from there. He would bring other bills to the floor. He would amend still other bills. He would advance motions to pull bills out of committee to the floor and other bills to serve as vehicles to create minority reports. Time after time, he was rejected.
This was not a partisan issue. Miller’s Republicans controlled the Senate. Finally, the affable warrior ran out of gas. His last effort yielded only six yes votes on the Senate floor, probably still a record for the fewest affirmative votes on any measure that made it that far.
But the result had a silver lining. He was still alive. Miller would admit on the floor, “If this passes, my mother says she will kill me.”
Oregon has, in a quirky way, been proud of two things few other states can claim. We don’t have a sales tax, and we don’t pump our own gas. We may have naked bike rides, towns named Boring and Idiotville, and eat bacon on our donuts, but God as our witness, we don’t allow people to pump their own gas.
Our own Whitley Sullivan even once made a T-shirt for her soon-to-be husband proclaiming the unique characteristics of Oregon’s prohibition.
But that’s all over now. On Wednesday, the Senate moved the final passage of HB 2426 by one vote to free all Oregonians from the grip of the gas station attendant. Now all of us can grab that nozzle and bathe in the exhilarating, stimulating smell of the gasoline cologne all over our bodies.
Oregon will no longer ‘fly with her own wings’ but join the flock of petrol pumpers. Oregon may have lost its unique identity, but Randy Miller has finally been vindicated.