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Legislative session had good, bad and ugly

The second even-year annual legislative session in Oregon’s history recently concluded after 33 days in Salem, delivering good, bad and ugly results for Oregonians.

On the positive end, in a series of nearly bipartisan votes, legislators funded capital construction needs throughout the state, including academic and medical research facilities that will benefit generations to come. We unanimously supported a locally crafted Washington County land-use solution that will create jobs and classroom space while preserving prime farmland for agriculture, simultaneously resolving a years-long legal dispute over the urban growth boundary and urban and rural reserves.

Finally, the Oregon House passed nearly 100 bills in bipartisan unity, protecting seniors, providing local control in education and services, retraining workers for today’s jobs, correcting technical problems in the law and modernizing our statutes and regulations. These are examples of how citizens expect our lawmakers to work together.

Bad politicking and election-year posturing made some of us simply shake our heads. Cover Oregon turned into “cover your you-know-what.” Members of the majority party rushed to add reams of regulations to our information technology contracting requirements, when the heart of the debacle was identified years ago and ignored: a lack of responsiveness to the warning signs by the executive branch.

Further, controversial changes to business laws, the handling of our public investments and tax increases were rightly stopped — either as bad policy or being simply inappropriate for a short 33-day session with little time for deliberation and public input.

The ugly part of the 2014 session — the budget process — raises serious questions about the prudence of continuing our recent experiment in annual sessions. The budget was revealed just 24 hours before the final gavel fell, and we left Salem.

Instead of transparency, prudence and healthy debate, the budget was slammed through after a month of one-party backroom dealing with no public input. Adding insult to injury, despite nearly $2 billion in increased available revenue, the majority party chose to reduce our reserves, leaving less than 0.7 percent of the budget in various savings accounts. This is a precarious path when we have more than half of the 2013-2015 biennium remaining to keep our budget balanced.

In 2010, when Oregon voters supported Measure 71 to amend our state constitution to add annual sessions, we were told these short, even-year meetings would focus on budget stability and transparency. Even the official “Legislative Argument in Support of Measure 71” claimed the primary purpose of annual sessions is to “provide greater accountability and more consistent budgeting by not waiting every two years to do the people’s business.”

We were told that annual sessions would “protect taxpayer dollars by enhancing transparency and efficiency from government.”

This year, unfortunately, Oregonians experienced 32 days of politics and one day of budget review — not the sort of “accountability” and “transparency” we should tolerate.

State Rep. John Davis (R-Wilsonville) represents the 26th Legislative District, which includes portions of Aloha and Hillsboro, in the Oregon Legislature.




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