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Citizen's View: Reflecting on the short legislative session: Oregonians deserve better

DE KLOTZThe rationale for the establishment of the short legislative session in Oregon in even-numbered years was the need to be able to address emergencies and budgetary issues on an annual basis. It was not intended to address complex legislation with difficult-to-evaluate, long-term effects that impact many different stakeholders.

As Senate Majority Leader Ginny Burdick, D-Portland, stated, “If you’re really trying to work your way through compromises and complicated issues, it’s just not enough to do that in the short session.” It is not always the case that good policy follows from good process, but good process is typically a necessary prerequisite.

In a recent opinion piece (“Short legislative session addressed wages, housing and other key issues,” March 10), Rep. Ann Lininger, D-Lake Oswego, referenced some of the very substantive legislation that she supported (and that ultimately passed) during the short session, including a dramatic increase in the minimum wage and a bill that requires the elimination of the use of coal to generate electricity in Oregon.

The purported beneficial consequences to even the individuals intended to be aided by the minimum wage law are contested — to take one reasonable concern: even though some people will be making more money, others will lose their jobs entirely — and I believe the law is a huge de facto tax hike on businesses. On the clean energy legislation, the lack of transparency throughout the process was disturbing, with well-documented allegations of cutting out and silencing stakeholders. Climate change is a serious crisis, but we are going to have to establish a climate of trust in Salem and in Washington in order to rise to the challenge of addressing it in an impactful way.

The short session simply did not afford the opportunity for careful deliberation and debate among legislators on these policies, let alone provide for any realistic ability of Oregonians without the right political connections to meaningfully engage and raise their concerns. Regardless of the merits of the underlying policies that were passed during the short session, the way in which they were passed was completely irresponsible. Oregonians deserve better.

Toward the end of her commentary, Representative Lininger stated that “there was a lot of unity” during the short session, and that we need “bipartisan teamwork as we move forward.” I think the actual record of the short session reflects a concerning lack of ability to work together in Salem, though I certainly echo Representative Lininger’s call for bipartisan teamwork in the future.

Indeed, I believe that the only way we are going to make any real headway on virtually any substantive issue is to carefully consider the interests of as many stakeholders as possible (not just the special interest groups that align with one’s party) and look for common ground to find broadly acceptable policies. Unfortunately, that is not the type of service we are currently getting in Salem.

Patrick De Klotz, a candidate for House District 38, formerly served as an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice and now works as a business attorney. Learn more about his campaign at www.patrickdeklotz.com.