Annual sessions should be put to public vote
Since I am a high school social studies teacher, in addition to being a state representative, I would give last month's special session of the Oregon Legislature a C minus.
While a passing grade, the work was not exceptional, and there is much room for improvement.
The session was supposed to deal with the most pressing fiscal and policy issues facing Oregon.
The most pressing fiscal issue is a drop in state revenue by over $150 million, but instead of finding savings and efficiencies, the legislature continued to spend money. We might soon face an economic emergency and return to cut budgets later this year.
As for policy issues, every new law we passed could have been dealt with last year during the regular session.
Having said that, we did enact some good measures: Giving the state police enough resources for 24/7 coverage on our highways; requiring proof of legal presence to get a driver's license; and, protecting homeowners from predatory foreclosure scams.
We met for 15 week days, considered 109 pieces of legislation, and adopted 73. The legislation included steps to improve long-term care services for seniors in assisted living facilities, adult foster care or in their own homes with help from Oregon Project Independence.
There was legislation to assist veterans who own small businesses, relief for farmers hit with estate taxes, and tougher sanctions for meth dealers.
I was encouraged to see a new effort to give legislators more oversight on the performance of state agencies, but continue to push for my plan to create an audits division inside the legislative branch
Other things happened that were not so good for Oregonians. For example, the citizen's initiative process was once again undermined by another legislative ballot measure, and a bill to enhance crime victims' rights was swept under the rug.
Legislative leaders refused to deal with the newest development of teachers sexually abusing students and signing secret agreements so they can move to another school district. I was especially upset by this and look forward to helping my colleagues who are working on a new taskforce to deal with this troubling issue.
Closer to home, a proposal I've spearheaded to allow memorial signs for victims of fatal bike and pedestrian crashes resurfaced, passed the House 57-0, and got lost in the shuffle in the Senate. These 'share-the-road' signs would benefit many of the families who have lost loved ones on Washington County roads in recent years and increase awareness about traffic safety.
On the bright side, we supported a resolution to Congress urging them to transfer ownership of the Tualatin Basin Water Supply Project, which includes Scoggins Dam, to Washington County to allow more flexibility and effective operation of this vital resource for our region's water needs.
One final comment on the concept of annual sessions: I have always been open to the idea, but I'm not sure this test-drive was a good example. If we're going to meet every year, then there must be limits on the number of days we meet and other restrictions.
This decision rests with Oregon voters. They will need to change the state Constitution before we can have annual sessions. They will formulate their own report cards of this experimental February session and they will be the final judges.
If you have questions about the recent session or any other issues, please don't hesitate to contact my office at 503-986-1426 or write to [email protected]
Jerry Krummel, a Republican, represents House District 26, which includes Gaston, Dilley and much of southern Washington County.