Mid-session: How's the Lege doing?

The Salem Statesman-Journal Associated Press has a good roundup where things stand part-way through the legislative session:

Midway through the 2007 legislative session, Oregon's new Democratic majority can point to some high-profile wins, from funding a rainy-day savings account to mandating that health insurers cover contraceptives.

Progress has been slower on several items that Democrats had hoped would fly right through by now, including an increase in Oregon's cigarette tax to pay for an expansion of children's health insurance. ...

It appears likely that by the time the Legislature's scheduled June 29 adjournment rolls around, lawmakers will have enacted laws and policies that could affect many aspects of everyday life in Oregon.

Among them: putting more state troopers on the roads; banning smoking in bars and taverns; expanding Oregon's once-pioneering bottle de-posit law; promoting production and use of renewable biofuels; and giving same-sex couples the right to form civil unions.

Enough about policy, what about process?

And yet the political gridlock that has gripped recent sessions isn't in evidence this time around. ...

One reason the Legislature is moving more quickly is the decision by the House and Senate to move toward annual sessions, with a fixed adjournment date. That is aimed at preventing runaway sessions dragging well into the summer months, a recent hallmark of Oregon's every-other-year legislative setup.

Another is the fact that Democrats are running both the House and Senate for the first time in 16 years, with Democrats regaining a majority of seats in last year's elections and keeping control of the Senate. ...

Senate Republican Leader Ted Ferrioli said that while there still are philosophical disagreements between Republicans and Democrats, the two sides are working through issues without the rancor that marked recent sessions.

He noted that the Senate Democrats have invited the minority Republicans to the behind-the-scenes talks on Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski's plan to boost the cigarette tax to bankroll health insurance for kids.

What's next?

"But the next few months are going to be the real test, because now we're getting into the really tough issues, the kind of issues that set people on edge," [Speaker Jeff Merkley] said. ...

It's not going to be easy, [Senate President Peter Courtney] said, given that lawmakers have only three months left to act on a range of issues.

He lists efforts to crack down on "predatory" payday loan shops, to authorize construction of two state psychiatric hospitals in Salem and Junction City to replace the crumbling Oregon State Hospital in Salem and to ban discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation.

"This is big stuff we are doing," he said and cited the June 29 adjournment date House and Senate have agreed to. "We've never worked with deadlines like this before."

What do you think? How's it going so far? Discuss.

  • (Show?)

    I think they've been extremely savvy. They've built some measure of trust and comity, gotten some pretty big stuff going, and positioned themselves to handle the REALLY big stuff. Just as I had hoped.

  • Eric J. (unverified)

    Just as long as they keep away from declaring more state symbols (like wasting time with "state soil" (read DIRT), they will do just fine.

  • Betsy Wilson (unverified)

    And their work to fix Measure 37, the law that will erode Oregon's beloved landscape.... captured by property-rights extremists.

    Count me unimpressed, both by Kulo's leadership on this issue, and Courtney's deferring leadership to a committee co-chaired by the extreme Larry George.

  • frank carper (unverified)

    larry might be a co-chair but my sources tell me that he's not even in the room on the negotiations. hasn't learned how to be a legislator yet. still thinks he's on talk radio.

  • Eric J. (unverified)

    As far as M37 goes - we have no one to blame but ourselves. A simlpe NO vote would have avoided all this grief were having with it now.

    ..but what do I know, eh?

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    If "ifs" and "buts" were candy and nuts, we'd all have a Merry F***ing Christmas. What's yer point, Eric?

  • JohnH (unverified)

    As expected, the legistlature, bought and paid for by monied interests, has, as expected, refused to address campaign finance reform. Interestingly, it was the last legislature than mandated an on-line campaign finance database. Now at least we'll have better information on who is greasing whose palms. Not that that will really change anything... http://www.registerguard.com/news/2007/03/28/e1.cr.campaignfi.0328.p1.php?section=cityregion

    How pathetic. Even Texas has a campaign finance law.

  • (Show?)

    That story says nothing about them refusing to do anything. And we still have months and months of Session to go.

    That story is about ORESTAR, which allows anyone with internet access to see how much candidates and PACs are receiving and spending. It's a great system -- I use it all the time.

    As expected, the legislature has worked on many of the smaller issues up near the front. The bigger issues are working their way through committee, or will be. There's a lot to do and repair after more than a decade of Republicans in charge. We can't expect things to change overnight.

  • (Show?)

    "Count me unimpressed, both by Kulo's leadership on this issue, and Courtney's deferring leadership to a committee co-chaired by the extreme Larry George."

    Whoa there--they ain't THAT stupid. The Co-chairs are both Democrats: Prozanski the Senator, Macpherson the Representative. Larry George is the VICE Chair, which is no different than being the "ranking member" of a federal cmte. You're the boss of the minority party's interests, and lead work groups or negotiations with the majority.

    <h2>It does seem that Garrard is doing the heavy lifting for the GOP, but he's the co-vice-chair, so that makes sense.</h2>
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