By Rep. John Huffman


The 2014 Regular Legislative Session ended by 5 p.m. Friday, March 7. Sine die (adjournment) came just two days before the constitutional limit.

In usual form, the final days of session were filled with drama, wins, losses, partisan maneuvering, frayed nerves and frustration. Some, including Gov. Kitzhaber, came into the session with high hopes for several high profile projects and policies. In the end, the legislative majority did not support much of the leadership’s agenda.

A proposal for an Oregon-only option for a new I-5 bridge was virtually dead on arrival. An attempt to have the Legislature rewrite the Attorney General’s ballot title for the driver card ballot measure suffered the same fate (SB 1545). So did efforts for immediate statewide control over marijuana dispensaries (SB 1531C will delay state control, giving local governments temporary authority) and redoing laws regulating class action law suits (HB 4143). Treasurer Ted Wheeler’s plan (HB 4144), to set the Oregon Investment Council up in a somewhat separate state agency, an effort that proposed to save the Oregon Public Employee Retirement System roughly $2.8B over the next 20 years, was also rejected.

Many in the Legislature, including all 14 Senate Republicans plus Sen. Betsy Johnson, D-Scappoose, felt that many of these proposals were simply too serious to rush through a brief legislative session. Frankly, it is my opinion they may have rejected most of these concepts in the longer session also.

I will say it again, the short, even-year session should strictly focus on budget rebalance, fixing unintended consequences of the previous session, and taking care of true emergencies. Many of the concepts presented in February were far too ambitious and or controversial. Accordingly, they probably suffered the appropriate fate.

For those of us in House District 59, which is much of Wasco County, all of Wheeler and Jefferson counties and all of northern Deschutes County, the 2014 Session was a tremendous success. To accomplish this, we owe a debt of gratitude to House Speaker Kotek, Senate President Courtney, the Ways and Means Co-chairs Sen. Devlin and Rep. Buckley and the entire Central Oregon delegation. A special thanks to Rep. Greg Smith, Rep. Mark Johnson, Sen. Chuck Thomsen, Sen. Ted Ferrioli and Sen. Bill Hansell, whose hard work and support always brings huge benefits to Central and North Central Oregon.

Early in the session, we passed HCR 203, which recognized the Wasco County Fair’s 100th anniversary at Hunt Park. We then passed HB 4023 which dedicates 35 miles of Highway 26, through Warm Springs, as the Warm Springs Veterans Memorial Highway.

Financial successes worth noting are appropriations of $1.63 million for Central Oregon Community College; $3.85 million for an OSU Cascades academic building; $1 million to Mid-Columbia Medical Center for capital construction; $4 million for a new Jefferson County Courthouse; the promise of five family wage jobs in Wheeler County that would be tied to the bonding for OHSU’s Knight Cancer Research Center; money for the Central and North Central Oregon Regional Solutions initiatives; and an additional $2 million for CTE (Career and Technical Education) school grants.

This is a long list of accomplishments for a very short session. The work is still not done, but I will continue working hard for my constituents in District 59.

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